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Planning: Mineral Resources

Volume 660: debated on Thursday 23 May 2019

On the 6 March 2019, Mr Justice Dove handed down his judgment in the case of Stephenson v SoS MHCLG [2019] EWHC 519 (Admin). In accordance with the terms of the court order, paragraph 209 (a) of the national planning policy framework has been quashed.

For the avoidance of doubt the remainder of the national planning policy framework policies and, in particular, chapter 17 on “facilitating the sustainable use of minerals” remain unchanged and extant.

For the purposes of the national planning policy framework, hydrocarbon development (including unconventional oil and gas) are considered to be a mineral resource. Specific policy on the planning considerations associated with their development is set out at paragraphs 203-205 and the remainder of 209 of the national planning policy framework. In particular, paragraph 204 (a) of the national planning policy framework states that planning policies should "provide for the extraction of mineral resources of local and national importance” with paragraph 205 stating that “[w]hen determining planning applications, great weight should be given to the benefits of mineral extraction, including to the economy”.

In addition, the written ministerial statements of 16 September 2015 on ‘shale gas and oil policy’ and 17 May 2018 on ‘planning and energy policy’ also remain unchanged and extant. The written ministerial statements sit alongside the national planning policy framework. Planning practice guidance is also unaffected by the ruling.

This suite of policies and guidance remain material considerations in plan making and decision taking for hydrocarbon development and they should be afforded appropriate weighting as determined by the decision maker.

We remain committed to the safe and sustainable exploration and development of our onshore shale gas resources.