Shale gas planning applications in England are to be fast-tracked under new government measures to crack down on councils that delay decisions.
Councils will be told they must rule on applications within the current 16-week statutory timeframe.
If they repeatedly delay, ministers might take over the power to decide all future applications in that local area.
Environmentalists say it makes a mockery of the government’s promise to give power to local people.
The government says it will take local views into account, but that developing shale gas is a national priority that must not be held up.
The announcement is less of a major change in planning law than a warning shot across the bows of local authorities.
Ministers already have powers to take over the decision on any controversial planning issue at any stage of the application.
They say they will now consider applying this power routinely to every bid to drill for shale gas.
They will also ask the Planning Inspectorate to give priority to any appeals against planning refusal for shale gas that come its way.
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said: “We need more secure, home grown energy supplies – and shale gas must play a part in that.
“We can’t have a planning system that sees applications dragged out for months, or even years. We need a system that delivers timely planning decisions and works effectively for local people and developers.”