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New Planning Document Bans Fracking in Northern Ireland

September 29, 2015
Environmental Protection

frackingA draft new Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS), which provides guidance for Northern Ireland’s 11 councils, will effectively ban fracking in the region. In introducing the document, Stormont minister Mark H Durkan said the policy could change, but only if robust evidence was provided to prove the controversial practice was safe.

Despite the ban, Mr Durkan believes the new guidance is positive news for developers. “Publishing the SPPS unlocks development potential, supports job creation and will aid economic recovery, but not at the expense of our planet, environment and people,” he said. “Significantly for the first time, no to fracking is actually enshrined in policy unless there is sufficient and robust evidence of its safety on all environmental impacts. I believe this is a sensible and reasonable approach.”

The SPPS incorporates 20 separate policy areas into a single document for the first time, covering key issues such as tourism, town centres and retail development, and building in the countryside. Last year two Stormont departments rejected an application to undertake exploratory drilling for shale gas in Belcoo, County Fermanagh; the decision is currently subject to legal challenge.

Earlier this month a task force led by former Labour cabinet minister Lord Smith advised that fracking should be pursued in the UK in order to provide a bridge to a low carbon future.