The UK government wants to “simplify” underground drilling access for those companies looking to extract shale gas and oil.

Under new proposals, the government will allow companies to drill for shale oil and gas in return for a community payment.

Effectively the new proposals would mean that shale gas companies could drill underneath UK properties without the owners’ permission.  

Announcing the government’s plans, business and energy minister, Michael Fallon, said: “Britain needs more home-grown energy. Shale development will bring jobs and business opportunities. We are keen for shale and geothermal exploration to go ahead while protecting residents through the robust regulation that is in place.

“These proposals allow shale and geothermal development while offering a fair deal for communities in return for underground access at depths so deep they will have no negative impact on landowners.”

The government says that people living above underground drilling should receive a payment from a company in return for the right of access – a figure that has been put at £20,000 for each “unique lateral (horizontal) well that extends by more than 200 metres laterally”. The Department continues: “Where lateral drilling vertically coincide payment will be made only once. The payment will be made at a community level”.

However, there could be various lateral drills at different heights – meaning the company will only have to make the community payment once.

Reacting to the proposals Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Lawrence Carter said: “Dangling larger bribes in front of communities won't quell their deep concerns about fracking. People know very well you can't put a price on clean air and water, unspoilt countryside, and a stable climate. Falling support for fracking shows the 'bungs and bulldozers' approach isn't working. Ministers should look at more practical solutions to boost our energy security, like slashing waste and promoting clean renewable energy sources.”  

Friends of the Earth’s South East regional campaigner, Brenda Pollack added: “No wonder the government waited until after the elections to make this announcement as Lord Howell recently warned that fracking will cost the Tories thousands of votes in their heartlands. Shale oil and gas are not the solution to the UK's energy challenges. Rather than drilling for more dirty fossil fuels that will add to climate change, the government should be backing renewable power and energy efficiency.”