New measures to back British shale gas exploration

UK to boost shale gas production to develop the industry

UK to boost shale gas production to develop the industry

"The government's announcement today that they will review the planning processes regarding shale is a step in the right direction and there is much more that needs to be done".

Permission to frack would also be the remit of a central government agency and not local councils; the representatives of local people.

Under the plans there would be a consultation this summer on the principle of whether non-hydraulic fracturing shale gas exploration development should be treated as "permitted development", which would not require planning permission. "Our planning permission to drill and test just four shale gas exploratory wells in Lancashire was granted after a lengthy and costly three year process".

The industry welcomed the news.

Commercial production of shale gas in Britain is not expected for two years and developers complain that progress has been slowed by protests and regulatory processes.

The Scottish government outlawed fracking past year after a public consultation found overwhelming opposition to it.

Its chief executive Francis Egan said: "We welcome the measures the government has introduced on making the planning process faster and fairer and providing additional resources to help local authorities". It also reiterated plans for a Shale Gas Sovereign Wealth Fund and signalled its support for community benefit payments to affected communities.

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"Britain's fracking experiment was on life support, and now the Government is trying its best to shock it back into life", said Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas.

"We also see an opportunity to work with industry on innovation to create a 'UK model" - the world's most environmentally robust onshore shale gas sector - and to explore export opportunities from this model, a core theme of our modern industrial strategy'.

Greenpeace UK said that "The government says test drilling for oil and gas should be as easy as building a garden wall, so they're relaxing planning rules to help it along". If we're serious about building an economy fit for the future we need to reprogramme our energy system to one which harnesses the power of the sun, sea and wind - rather than throwing resources at this failed fracking experiment.

She said shale gas had the potential to lower energy prices, although opponents of the technology say there is no evidence this will happen in the UK.

But their concerns were dismissed by petrochemicals giant Ineos, which said delays in exploiting United Kingdom gas was leading the country to become dependent on imports from Russian Federation and the Middle East.

Since test fracking triggered a small quake in Blackpool seven years ago, no commercial fracking has yet started.

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