Fracking paragraph removed from NPPF having been found ‘unlawful

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By Fran Evans
25th June 2019

The government has removed a paragraph from the National Planning Policy Framework

As reported in Planning Resources 24th June 2019

The government has removed a paragraph from the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) intended to support the extraction of “unconventional hydrocarbons” following a High Court ruling earlier this year which found that a public consultation on the policy was flawed.

Paragraph 209 (a) of the NPPF had stressed the benefits of onshore oil and gas development, including “unconventional hydrocarbons”. It stated that such developments benefit the security of national energy supplies and support the transition to a low-carbon economy. It went on to give a commitment that policies will be put in place to facilitate on-shore exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons, including fracking for shale gas. The paragraph was added to the NPPF as part of revisions to the document published last year.

But in March, environmental campaign group Talk Fracking successfully challenged the new paragraph at the High Court. Judge Mr Justice Dove ruled that the public consultation on the new policy was unfair and unlawful and the government had failed to take into account up-to-date scientific evidence on the climate change impacts of such development. He ruled that the secretary of state “did not consciously consider the fruits of the consultation exercise in circumstances where he had no interest in examining observations or evidence pertaining to the merits of the policy”.

A written ministerial statement was issued on 23 May 2019 which stressed that, despite paragraph 209 (a) being removed, the remainder of the NPPF policies “and, in particular, Chapter 17 on ‘Facilitating the Sustainable Use of Minerals’ remain unchanged and extant.