The government has today published details of how companies can apply for these licences to speed up the development of fracking in the UK.
In a sop to those who argue that pumping chemicals deep underground to release natural gas is hazardous and potentially polluting, the government has said that it would allow fracking in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites but only if there were “exceptional circumstances” or it was “in the public interest”.
Communities minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said: “Effective exploration and testing of the UK’s unconventional gas resources is key to understanding the potential for this industry – so the government is creating the right framework to accelerate unconventional oil and gas development in a responsible and sustainable way.
“We recognise there are areas of outstanding landscape and scenic beauty where the environmental and heritage qualities need to be carefully balanced against the benefits of oil and gas from unconventional hydrocarbons.
“For this reason, I am today making clear our approach to planning for unconventional hydrocarbons in National Parks, the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites. Proposals for such development must recognise the importance of these sites.”
The licences provide the first step to starting drilling. Planning permission will also be needed, as well as permits from the Environment Agency and sign-off from the Health & Safety Executive.
Business and Energy Minister Matthew Hancock said: “As one of the cleanest fossil fuels, shale gas can be a key part of the UK’s answer to climate change and a bridge to a much greener future.”