My rt. hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Amber Rudd) has today laid before Parliament a Written Statement setting out the Government’s view that there is a need to explore and develop our shale gas and oil resources in a safe, sustainable and timely way. The Statement sets out a number of measures to enable planning applications and appeals to be dealt with as quickly as possible. I am today also setting out further details of two of the planning measures on identifying underperformance in respect of oil and gas applications and a revision to the recovery criteria for appeals for planning permission for shale gas.
Identifying underperformance in respect of oil and gas applications
We are announcing today details of the scheme to identify local planning authority underperformance specifically in respect of their determination of planning applications for onshore oil and gas, including for exploring and developing shale gas. It is separate to the statutory regime provided by section 62A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 for the designation of underperforming local planning authorities. This new non-statutory scheme will operate in the following way:
- A table setting out local planning authority performance on speed of decision making specifically on onshore oil and gas applications will be added to DCLG’s quarterly planning application statistical release from the next scheduled release on 22 September 2015 onwards. Data in the table will be subject to the same adjustments as detailed in ‘Improving planning performance Criteria for designation’, as amended from time to time (the criteria document) for the tables on speed of decision making for major development.
- The measure of speed of decision making and the assessment period will be the same as those set out for major development in the criteria document. The same threshold will also apply for the identification of local planning authority underperformance in respect of its oil and gas applications as for the designation of underperformance in respect of major development, currently 50% or fewer applications being made within the statutory determination period or such extended period as has been agreed in writing by the applicant. The same limited exemption will be applied, namely, that local planning authorities will not be liable to identification as underperforming in respect of oil and gas applications if they decided no more than two during the assessment period.
- We will identify any underperforming local planning authorities in respect of oil and gas applications annually, in the final quarter of each calendar year. Prior to the decision to identify a local planning authority as underperforming, it will be given an opportunity to set out any exceptional circumstances, with supporting evidence, which it considers make its identification unreasonable. These circumstances will be judged against the tests set out in the criteria document. We will undertake the first identifications of any underperforming local planning authorities in the final quarter of 2016.
- Where a local planning authority is identified as underperforming in respect of planning applications for oil and gas, it will remain as such for a period of one year. For this one year period, for any such application validated by the relevant authority, I will actively consider exercising the power under section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to call-in the application for my determination. In considering whether to call-in any such application, I will have regard to my current policy for the use of my call-in powers.
- We will review the scheme in the final quarter of 2019, after an initial period of three years following the first identification of any underperforming local planning authorities.
Recovery criteria for appeals
As indicated in today’s Statement by my rt. hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, I may want to give particular scrutiny to planning appeals for exploring and developing shale gas. I am therefore revising the criteria for consideration of the recovery of planning appeals to include the additional criterion: proposals for exploring and developing shale gas. The new criterion is added to the recovery policy of 30 June 2008, Official Report, column 43WS, and will be applied for a period of two years from today (16 September 2015), after which it will be reviewed. I am also making a consequential change to planning guidance to reflect this.
 The current version of the Criteria document is available to view at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/446762/Improving_Planning_Performance_-_Criteria_for_Designation__revised_2015_.pdf
 Set out in a written answer of 16 July 1999 (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199899/cmhansrd/vo990616/text/90616w02.htm#90616w02.htm_sbhd5) and a Written Ministerial Statement of 26 October 2012 (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121026/wmstext/121026m0001.htm#12102628000003)