Scottish Planning Policy on onshore unconventional oil and gas to be strengthened


The Scottish Government has announced that it plans to strengthen Scottish Planning Policy as it relates to onshore unconventional oil and gas.

The new Scottish Planning Policy, which comes into force next year, will reinforce environmental and community protection and community consultation guidance in relation to planning applications for unconventional gas extraction. It also introduces the need for buffer zones in relation to such planning applications.


Amongst the changes to the policy it states that the planning system must “minimise the impacts of extraction on local communities, built and natural heritage, and the water environment.”

In addition the new policy says that proposals “should also provide an adequate buffer zone between sites and settlements.”

Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said:

“Any proposals for the extraction of unconventional oil and gas extraction are considered through the planning process and the appropriate regulatory regimes.

“In considering such proposals it is important that the views of the local communities, and the impact on the environment are given due consideration in the planning process. Today’s announcement of a strengthening of the planning rules in relation to unconventional oil and gas, through provision of buffer zones, highlights that this government listens to local communities and the those calling for stronger environmental protection.

“The UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change issue Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDL) in licence rounds which grant exclusivity to operators in the licence area. These licences however do not give consent for drilling and operators are still required to obtain planning permissions and a suite of other licenses before any exploration or development work can be carried out.

“As well as the planning process each proposal will be considered through the appropriate regulatory regimes and SEPA’s guidance. Proposals for coalbed methane or shale gas production in Scotland will be studied on their merits, informed by reliable and substantive information on availability of resources and the manner and practicalities of their exploitation.

“There are no environmental permissions which would allow hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Scotland at this time.”