Somerset Council is the minerals and waste planning authority for the whole county, except Exmoor National Park.
This means that the council are responsible for determining planning decisions on minerals and waste development within Somerset and the preparation of the minerals and waste local plans.
The Somerset Minerals Plan 2030 was adopted in February 2015 following a public examination led by an independent Inspector.
The Minerals Plan sets out how and broadly where minerals will be worked in Somerset (excluding Exmoor) until the year 2030.
The maps should be read in conjunction with the Minerals Plan.
Map 1 – Somerset Minerals Plan policies
Map 1a – Sand and Gravel Areas of Search
Map 1b – Andesite Area of Search
Map 1c – Building Stone Area of Search
Map 2 – Carboniferous Limestone Resource
Map 3 – Sand and Gravel ‘Pebble Bed’ Resource
Map 4 – Location of quarry sites in Somerset
Map 5 – Peat resources areas west of Glastonbury
Map 6 – 14th round Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) areas(signed September 2016)
Map 7a – Broadleaved woodland and rivers and streams ecological networks
Map 7b – Heathland and grassland ecological networks
Map 8 – Mineral Safeguarding Areas
Map 9 – Torr Works Railhead
Map 10 – Whatley Interchange
Map 11 – Dunball
|Building Stone||Sets out the rationale and process behind the selection of needed building stones within Somerset and provides supporting information.||Building Stone Topic Paper(December 2012) Somerset Strategic Stone Study(August 2011) Strategic Stone Study webtool|
|Energy Minerals||Outlines information on energy minerals – in particular on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas and coal bed methane (CBM) extraction – that will inform minerals planning policy development principally in Somerset, Bath & North East Somerset and North Somerset.||Energy Minerals Topic Paper (July 2014)|
|Peat||Explains the issues for consideration in peat planning policy such as for peat reserves and supply and impacts on the environment, biodiversity and the surrounding communities.||Peat Topic Paper (June 2013)|
|Reclamation||Explains what restoration is; the policy context; the issues and options for mineral site reclamation in Somerset; and the development of a mineral site reclamation policy for Somerset.||Reclamation Topic Paper (October 2013)|
|Mineral Safeguarding||Considers the mineral resource itself (such as limestone) and associated infrastructure/facilities, such as wharves, railheads, and production facilities for concrete and asphalt materials and for the production of alternative materials.||Safeguarding Topic Paper (January 2014) Safeguarding Map (January 2014)|
Somerset Waste Core Strategy
The Somerset Waste Core Strategy was adopted in February 2013.
The Waste Core Strategy guides the council’s approach to planning for sustainable waste management in Somerset until the year 2028. It covers all forms of waste including household, commercial, industrial and construction waste.
The Waste Core Strategy sets out the detailed environmental and other criteria against which we judge all applications for waste management facilities.
Waste Plan Review
We have begun to update our evidence base to inform a review of the Somerset Waste Core Strategy.
The timeline for this will be set out in the forthcoming Somerset Local Development Scheme.
Waste Topic Papers – supporting the adopted Waste Core Strategy
As the Waste Planning Authority for Somerset, the Government expects Somerset Council to plan for the sustainable management of low level radioactive waste (LLW). Industry may also propose treatment and storage of intermediate level waste (ILW).
Hinkley Point is the main producer of radioactive waste in Somerset and is the main focus of our work on radioactive waste planning policy.
Hinkley Point includes:
- Hinkley Point A: a first generation nuclear power station which is now being decommissioned. Its Site Licence Company is Magnox Ltd: Our sites – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Hinkley Point B: is a separately licensed power station. It stopped generating electricity in August 2022 and is currently being defueled. Its Site Licence Company is EDF Energy: https://www.edfenergy.com/energy/power-stations/hinkley-point-b
- Hinkley Point C: Construction of the new nuclear power station started in 2016 and the first reactor is expected to be operational in 2027. The site licence company is EDF Energy: https://www.edfenergy.com/energy/nuclear-new-build-projects/hinkley-point-c
Planning policy for radioactive waste management in Somerset is set out in the Waste Core Strategy.
Somerset Council is also responsible for determining planning applications for radioactive waste developments in Somerset, apart from Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. NSIP applications are dealt with by the National Infrastructure Planning Team at the Planning Inspectorate and the council is a consultee in the process.
Somerset Council also has a role in non-nuclear industry radioactive waste planning and in monitoring developments that might impact on Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM). They also co-operate as appropriate with the Environment Agency:
- The Council must be informed by the evidence available on non-nuclear industry radioactive waste. There is no evidence to suggest that Somerset generates significant amounts of non-nuclear radioactive waste (from sources such as hospitals, universities and military establishments). Our main area of responsibility lies in keeping a watching brief on the waste management routes available and identifying any blocks that may impede Somerset producers from accessing those routes.
- The oil and gas sector is the main source of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) generated by development. Somerset does not have an active oil and gas sector, though there are licences offered by central government in the latest round of onshore oil and gas licensing. Our main responsibility around NORM is in monitoring relevant developments, in particular those associated with the oil and gas sector, and reviewing any implications for Somerset.
More detailed information about radioactive waste management nationally and locally in Somerset can be found in Waste Topic Paper C, published in 2016.
You can view further information on the Hinkley Point C project on our Hinkley Point C page.
Oil and Gas Development
To date, we have not received any planning applications for oil and gas development – there is no fracking taking place in Somerset.
Fracking is a term commonly used to refer to the process of hydraulic fracturing, where a mixture of water, sand and chemicals are pumped at high pressure through boreholes into gas bearing rocks. The water opens up cracks in the rock, and the sand grains lodge into the spaces allowing gas to be released and travel back along the borehole. In the UK this technique is most commonly associated with shale gas extraction.
Licensed areas in Somerset
The UK Government is responsible for issuing Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs), through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
There are currently eight Petroleum and Exploration Development Licences (PEDLs) blocks in Somerset. Signed on 15 September 2016, these are a result of the Government’s 14th oil and gas licensing round. All eight are held by South Western Energy Ltd (in three Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence agreements).
You can find further information on the Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence agreements in Somerset on the North Sea Transition Authority website
- PEDL320 – covers blocks ST25a, ST35a and ST36*
- PEDL321 – covers blocks ST25b, ST34 and St35b
- PEDL344 – covers blocks ST04, ST14 and ST24
* ST36 falls within the boundaries of North Somerset
While Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences give licence holders exclusive rights to pursue proposals for oil and gas development within the licensed areas. The licence holder will still be required to follow existing planning and regulatory processes. This includes:
- applying for planning permission
- applying for relevant environment permits
- gaining consent to drill from the North Sea Transition Authority – (formerly known as the Oil and Gas Authority)
The licensee’s proposals will also be subject to scrutiny by the Health and Safety Executive.
As the Mineral Planning Authority (MPA) for Somerset (excluding Exmoor), Somerset Council is responsible for determining planning applications for oil and gas development (technically referred to as onshore hydrocarbon extraction). We have to work within the planning system which governs the development and use of land in the public interest. The Mineral Planning Authority may not address any emissions, control processes, or health and safety issues that are matters to be addressed under other regulatory regimes.
More about the Regulatory process
A formal regulatory process is in place that has to be followed before any exploration or development of oil and gas can proceed. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published a Regulatory Roadmap which explains this in more detail.
There are three main phases to the planning process for oil and gas development:
Planning permission for exploration or appraisal of oil and gas does not imply that long-term production will be permitted. In England, this regulatory process involves a number of different regulatory bodies. Before exploration can begin, the relevant Minerals Planning Authority (Somerset Council) must grant planning permission and the Environment Agency must grant relevant abstraction or discharge permits. The Health and Safety Executive must also be notified.
On checking this has been satisfactorily completed, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is then in a position to issue overall consent to proceed.
The Environment Agency is also a consultee to the relevant Minerals Planning Authority and will provide responses for the proposed planning applications. This includes their views on any potential risks, such as adverse impacts on water resources and quality, and air quality. Any planning applications received will also be examined in relation to national and local policy and guidance.
Local planning policy on oil and gas development is contained in the Somerset Mineral Plan.