Companies fracking for shale gas will be allowed to circumvent strict planning regulations, a government minister has said.
Under usual planning rules developers are obliged to notify every household and business affected by works, but Communities minister Nick Boles said it would be impractical for onshore gas companies to personally notify every household and business sitting above a shale gas site. This comes despite concerns fracking can lead to mini-earthquakes and poison the water table.
In a written ministerial statement, he said that while companies would set up a small base on the surface from where they would start drilling, the search for shale gas would potentially cover a much larger area beneath the Earth's surface.
Instead, on-shore gas companies would only be expected to take out an advert in a local newspaper to inform residents about their plans to start fracking and place notices in local parishes.
Boles said the government had today tabled secondary legislation to Parliament so the changes could be implemented.
He said: "We have introduced these changes because underground operations for oil and gas operations are different in character from other forms of development. This is because the development on the surface is limited in scale and takes place on a relatively small surface area.
"The associated underground extraction takes place very deep below the Earth's surface, over a wide geographical area. As a result, it is often not possible to identify the exact route of any lateral drilling.
"Without the changes to the secondary legislation, the widely-drawn area on planning applications for on-shore oil and gas projects would require the notification of a disproportionately large number of individuals and businesses.
"This would be unnecessarily excessive when other forms of complimentary notification exist.
"In practical terms, in place of the blanket notification, the changes mean that applicants who are applying for planning permission for on-shore oil and gas projects will now be required to publish a notice in a local newspaper and put up site displays in local parishes.
"In addition, a new requirement has been introduced for a site display to be set up in every local authority ward where no parish exists, or where the parish only covers part of the ward."