Planning policy for oil and gas developments in Northern Ireland to be reviewed
Strategic planning policy on oil and gas development in Northern Ireland is set to be reviewed to ensure it “remains appropriate in the context of the climate emergency”.
Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon said the review will include consideration of unconventional hydrocarbon development, commonly referred to as fracking.
She also announced an immediate measure requiring a council planning authority to notify the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) when it proposes to grant planning permission for all types of petroleum development.
“The planning system has a key role to play in helping to mitigate and adapt to climate change and in the protection of our cherished local environment which must be safeguarded, not only for the health and wellbeing of current generations, but in the long term public interest of future society,” Ms Mallon said.
“Following on from the latest UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report, I believe it is important to ensure that the planning approach to this category of development remains appropriate in the context of the climate emergency and my ambitions for a green recovery from the Covid pandemic.”
The review will involve background research and scoping as well as engagement with a wide range of stakeholders.
Ms Mallon said: “I have already removed permitted development rights for petroleum exploration and I am now taking forward this review as I want to ensure that the current planning policy approach on hydrocarbon development, as contained within the Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS), remains up-to-date, fit for purpose and has the support of local communities.
“My officials will now begin the preparatory work to take this review forward. It is essential to steer the policy in the right direction, informed by the evidence, which serves the long term public interest of communities across the North.”
On the direction issued to local authorities regarding petroleum developments, Ms Mallon said: “This new direction which I am now issuing will allow my Department to maintain a close and careful watch over this controversial category of development.
“The direction will provide the opportunity for me to intervene and take action, if and as appropriate. In effect, the action I am taking stops any such applications from being unilaterally approved by a council and gives me the opportunity to decide on calling it in to my Department.
“I am absolutely committed to ensuring that my Department, and the wider planning system, do everything possible to help address the climate emergency, protect our environment and enable a green recovery from the Covid pandemic and that includes providing clarity and consistency on how any future planning applications for petroleum development are to be determined, should any be submitted.”