Britain’s Tory MPs face fracking challenge
Financial Times, 19 May 2013

Explainer to accompany main article

Approval process stricter after ban

In 2011, fracking was banned in the UK after the process caused a series of earth tremors in Lancashire. At the end of last year, the ban was lifted and replaced by a complex regulatory regime. Energy companies must now pass through a more stringent process before fracking rights will be granted, writes Sam Judah.


1. Unlike the US, where mineral deposits belong to the landowner, in the UK they belong to the Crown. Firms must apply for a licence to explore a particular region from the energy ministry, and it is these licenses that the Greenpeace report refers to. Most projects are still at this exploratory stage.

2. Once that license is granted, firms must negotiate access to specific sites with local landowners and submit applications to a number of agencies in parallel. Constituency MPs play no role in the process and the decision lies with the following groups:

● The Health and Safety Executive, which needs to approve the drilling of new wells. Fracking company Cuadrilla currently has permission to drill test wells near the West Sussex village of Balcombe but local residents are petitioning their plans.

● The Environment Agency, which decides whether plans comply with a range of environmental regulations.

● The Local Council, from whom companies need to request planning permission, and submit the results of an environmental impact assessment. This includes identifying protected species, accounting for noise, light pollution and traffic management. A period of public consultation must take place, lasting about two months.

3. If stage two is completed successfully, the company needs to submit the results back to DECC which must give final approval to any full scale fracking schemes. Since the ban was lifted, no projects have reached this stage.