Communications between Her Majesty’s Government and Lancashire County Council have been carried out in accordance with the “Guidance on Planning Propriety Issues” published by the Department for Communities and Local Government in February 2012. The merits of the planning applications at Roseacre Wood and Little Plumpton have not been discussed.
Officials from the Department for Communities and Local Government communicated with officials from Lancashire County Council by telephone and by e-mail in September and October 2014 to obtain factual information on the total number of representations received in relation to, and the local authority’s intended timescales for decisions on, both planning applications. Two communications were held on 20 January between officials from the Department and the local authority. One, by telephone between the Chief Executive of the local authority and the Permanent Secretary, was to inform the department of the officer recommendations that would be in the reports to be published at 9.00am the following day. The other was an e-mail from Lancashire County Council to advise when the reports would be published and where they would be made available on their website.
In developing part of the £5 million Government shale support package that was announced in the Autumn Statement 2014, there were also telephone conversations between officials, one in December 2014 and one in January 2015, to try and identify areas where local authority resources come under most pressure when processing these type of applications.
On 3 November 2014, Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) officials wrote to Lancashire County Council to provide comments on the relevant aspects of DECC’s regulatory role that might be helpful in considering the applications. On 17 November 2014, 19 January 2015 and 26 January 2015, DECC officials wrote two letters and an email in response to specific requests from Lancashire County Council officials, seeking views from DECC on certain comments received in the public consultation on the planning applications. DECC’s responses addressed only matters which fall under DECC’s regulatory responsibilities.
The Minister of State, Matt Hancock, met with the deputy leader of Lancashire County Council on 12 November 2014, as part of a regional visit. This meeting did not discuss the merits of the planning applications. A meeting with officials to follow up was arranged (by email and telephone) for 14 January but after further consideration was postponed until after the planning decisions.
A DECC official was invited to attend the meetings of the development control committee considering the planning applications on 28 and 29 January, to advise if necessary on DECC’s regulatory responsibilities. After due consideration of this request, DECC officials confirmed on 27 January that they would not attend.
The Director of Public Health at Lancashire County Council wrote to DECC in January asking for comments on the Health Impact Assessment, and DECC officials replied on 20 January to say they could not respond ahead of the Council’s decisions.