I have worked closely with North Yorkshire County Council to develop their Draft Minerals and Waste Plan, which offers significant protection to our precious landscapes and existing local economies. Many of my constituents have contacted me with concerns that the manifesto proposals to treat non-fracking drilling as permitted development and major applications the responsibility of the National Planning Regime will weaken these protections. I do understand that a large-scale roll out of shale gas would put undue pressure on local authority planning resources, so can appreciate why this might need to be designated Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, as happened previously with large scale onshore wind farms.
To secure public confidence in the process and ease local and national concerns on shale gas, I strongly favour the development of national planning guidelines based upon the North Yorkshire plan and to include the following:
• Development of new well-pads and associated infrastructure such as pipelines will not be treated as permitted development
• Surface activity prohibited in Protected Areas (National Parks, AONB and SSSIs) and in buffer-zones around these areas.
• A maximum density of 10 well-pads per 100 sq. km. outside Protected Areas
• Minimum separation distances from a pad of one mile from any settlement, school or health facility
• Requirement for pads to be located to allow direct access from, or be situated within 0.5m of, an A-road or good B-road.
• Clear rules to confirm that cumulative impact will always override licence-holder requirements to maximise recovery
• Clear requirements for financial security for site abandonment, restoration and remedial action
I have written to the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, to request a meeting as soon as possible for clarification on the Government's future plans for shale gas as it was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech. As I have often said if I do not believe that shale gas exploration can be carried out whilst protecting the landscape and the environment, then I will oppose it.