Hazzard vows to change planning process for oil and gas exploration

Date published: 06 June 2016

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Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard will put forward legislation to ensure exploration for oil and gas will require full planning permission.

Infrastructure Minister Hazzard

The Minister confirmed his intention to change permitted development rights for mineral exploration during an Assembly debate today relating to ongoing exploratory drilling at Woodburn Forest Park, Carrickfergus.

Minister Hazzard said:

“The existing permitted development rights for mineral exploration includes all minerals both precious and base metal and oil and gas. Following a call for evidence on permitted development rights for mineral exploration the overwhelming response was in favour of change to the existing system that permits exploration without a planning application.

“Given this, I intend to propose to the Executive a change to the current legislation policy and procedures to remove permitted development rights for oil and gas exploration so that, in the future proposals to explore for oil and gas would require the submission of a planning application which would be subject to the full rigours of the planning process including environmental impact assessment and public consultation.” 

Consultation on the legislative change will begin shortly.

“As Minister with responsibility for planning I aim to continue to improve our planning system and to make sure that it is effective and efficient and that it operates in the wider public interest.  I am committed to ensuring that it delivers for local communities and the region as a whole and that the planning system addresses the present as well as the long term future needs of our society.

The Minister concluded:

“The planning system should, where possible facilitate development, but it must not compromise on environmental standards. Sustainable development is at the heart of our planning system and it is clear that there will many instances where it is necessary to balance competing social, economic and environmental interests.  Whilst the planning process many not always be able to reconcile competing interests, transparency, fairness and accountable decision-making are fundamental to ensuring all interests are taken into account.”

Notes to editors: 

1. The current permitted development rights for mineral exploration are set out in Part 16 of the Schedule to The Planning (General Permitted Development) Order (Northern Ireland) 2015.

2. Temporary Permitted Development rights for minerals exploration do not allow the commercial extraction of minerals, including oil and gas. Such activity would be subject to the full planning application process as well as relevant EIA, licensing and environmental permitting arrangements.

3. All media queries to Department for Infrastructure Press Office Tel: 028 9054 0007. Out of office hours please contact the Daily Press Office via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned.

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