Faster decision making on
shale gas for economic growth and energy security
SHALE gas planning applications will be
fast tracked through a new, dedicated planning process, under measures
announced. Amber Rudd and Greg Clark announced plans that will ensure
local people have a strong say over the development of shale exploration in
their area; but will ensure communities and the industry benefit from a swift
process for developing safe and suitable new sites.
The latest measures include identifying Councils that repeatedly fail to determine
oil and gas applications, within the 16 week statutory timeframe, with subsequent
applications potentially decided by the Communities Secretary.
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said:- "As a 1 Nation Government, we are
backing the safe development of shale gas because it's good for jobs giving
hardworking people and their families more financial security, good for our
energy security and part of our plan to decarbonise the economy. We need more
secure, home grown energy supplies; and shale gas must play a part in that.
To ensure we get this industry up and running we can't have a planning system
that sees applications dragged out for months, or even years on end. Oversight
by the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency of shale
developments makes our commitment to safety and the environment crystal clear.
We now need, above all else, a system that delivers timely planning decisions
and works effectively for local people and developers."
Communities Secretary Greg Clark said:- "There is huge potential right
across the Country for safe and sustainable use of shale gas, to provide a clean
long term energy source and create British jobs and growth. People's safety and
the environment will remain paramount and communities will always be involved in
planning applications but no one benefits from uncertainty caused by delays in
planning decisions. By fast tracking any appropriate applications today's
changes will tackle potential hold ups in the system."
The Government has made clear shale is a national priority, helping to move the
UK to a low carbon economy. But Ministers want to ensure shale applications
can't be frustrated by slow and confused decision making amongst councils, which
benefits no 1.
If planning applications for shale exploration developments take months or even
years it can create uncertainty for communities and prevent the development of a
potentially vital national industry.
These measures will mean Ministers will consider calling in any application
for shale exploration, and will recover appeals on a case by case basis.
Local communities will remain fully involved in planning decisions with any
shale application; whether decided by Councils or Government. And demanding
planning rules to ensure shale development happens only at appropriate sites
On top of this, strong safety and environmental safeguards are also already in
place through the regulatory regime to ensure shale exploration and extraction
is safe and only happens in appropriate places.
As a quasi judicial process planning applications will always be considered with
due process and a fair hearing; but the measures will prevent the long delays
that mean uncertainty both for business and for local residents.
The Communities Secretary actively considering calling in on a
case by case basis shale planning applications and considering recovering
Identifying Councils that repeatedly fail to determine oil and gas applications
within the 16 week statutory timeframe requirement (unless applicants agree to a
longer period). Underperforming councils' gas and oil planning applications
could be determined by the Communities Secretary; Adding shale applications as a
specific criterion for recovery of appeals, to ensure no application can
'fall through the cracks.' Ensuring planning call ins and appeals
involving shale applications are prioritised by the Planning Inspectorate as
well as taking forward work on revising permitted development rights for drilling
boreholes for groundwater monitoring.
The Government also believes that communities hosting shale gas developments
should share in the financial returns they generate, and will be presenting
proposals later in the year on the design of a new sovereign wealth fund.
Ambulance Boost for North
COMMUNITIES in the North West will see
a substantial increase in the numbers of Ambulances and frontline Ambulance
staff, the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) announced that following
significant work between CCG Ambulance Commissioners and the Trust.
The announcement comes following the most challenging year in the Trust's
history when last year, 2014 to 2015, NWAS saw an unprecedented increase of 8.1% in
calls and 11% for the most serious and life threatening 'Red' calls.
While the Trust predicts growth in activity and plans ahead for the required
resources, the rise, which was seen nationally as well as in the North West, was
substantially above what was expected and unfortunately, did leave some patients
waiting longer than they should have done for an Ambulance.
Director of Operations, Derek Cartwright comments:- "Based on these
figures and planned trajectories for the coming months, very open and
constructive talks were held with Commissioners who fully understood the
challenge we faced. Since our establishment as a Trust in 2006, we have seen a
growth of circa 2% per annum and there is no reason to believe that will
Commissioners have approved the provision of funds to enable NWAS to purchase
more than 60 new Ambulances, rapid response vehicles and emergency vehicles for
community based paramedics, extend the operating hours of some of our existing
vehicles and to recruit more than 400 additional frontline staff, including more
than 40 in the Trust's Call Centres. All these will be deployed throughout the
region and have been located in areas where demand requires the additional
Derek adds;- "This is a fantastic boost for the Trust and I'm sure for the
staff who have been working extremely hard to cope with the additional demand.
Most of all, it is extremely good news for the people of the North West.
It is hugely important for us to plan ahead and ensure we have the appropriate
number ready for when we need them as new Ambulances and staff can't just appear
overnight. We have started the process for phasing these resources in over the
coming months and hope to have the full complement of new vehicles and staff in
operation by the end of the year
We know that sending an Ambulance to all patients is not the most appropriate
course of action, and our commitment to providing alternative pathways of care,
we believe, is still the way forward, however, the statistics have shown that
the numbers of patients with life threatening conditions is rising and these are
people who definitely do need an Ambulance response. These additional vehicles
will be of tremendous benefit to them and the Trust and I look forward to
welcoming on board the new staff who will work on them."
Recruitment of staff has been an important objective of the Trust for some time
and last year saw the Trust employ an additional 156 urgent care and emergency
medical technicians, 146 paramedics and 114 control centre staff. However, with
vacancies still needed to be filled, the Commissioners' funding will enable to
the Trust to further increase its frontline staffing.
Derek concludes:- "It's all well and good purchasing additional
but people need to operate them, people are needed to answer the 999 calls and
staff are required to then dispatch the vehicles. We're absolutely delighted to
be able to say that, despite the financial challenges faced by NHS trusts today,
we are swelling our ranks rather than reducing them."
Allan Jude, Director of Ambulance Commissioning at Blackpool CCG and Lead
Ambulance Commissioner for the North West said:- "The Ambulance service is
an integral and key player in the urgent and emergency health system. While last
year they responded to unprecedented levels of demand, they also managed to
significantly increase the number of patients who were successfully treated at
home or within the community. By not transporting such patients to hospitals
they have relieved some of the significant pressures faced by emergency hospital
With the levelling of activity, the Trust is currently achieving all national
targets, reporting a year to date performance, as at 9 August 2015, of 77.5%for
Red 1 and 76.2%, the national target for these is set at 75%. The Trust is also
achieving the national 95% target for Category A calls.