Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard launched a public consultation on the review of permitted development rights for mineral exploration today.
Mr Hazzard explained: “I have listened to the concerns of residents of County Antrim and others about the exploratory drilling at Woodburn Forest, and this highlighted to me the need for change to ensure that permitted development rights for oil and gas exploration are fit for purpose.
“The existing permitted development rights for mineral exploration covers 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.
“This would mean that in the future, under my proposals, exploration for oil and gas will require the submission of a planning application and will be subject to the full rigours of the planning process, including public consultation and environmental impact assessments where necessary.
“I am calling on the public to put forward their views on this key issue so that everyone can have a say on the planning process for mineral exploration. As we already know, there needs to be a change to the permitted development rights, this will offer the chance to shape exactly how exploration for minerals will be determined going forward.”
The minister has committed previously to ensuring that exploration for oil and gas will require full planning permission. This is the next step in the legislative process.
The consultation can be accessed at https://www.infrastructure-ni.gov.uk/consultations/review-permitted-development-rights-mineral-exploration
It will close on February 3 2017.