Consultation on Underground Drilling Access


This is a Government consultation on proposals to reform the procedure for gaining underground access to oil or gas deposits and geothermal energy.

The consultation examines the existing procedures by which companies who wish to extract oil, gas or geothermal energy obtain access rights to underground land, and the problems raised by these procedures.

Our preferred solution is presented, which consists of three elements: an underground right of access below 300m, a voluntary payment from industry and a notification for access. The voluntary payment would be supported by a statutory reserve power in the case that industry defaulted on their arrangement. Notification would be made in the form of public announcements to the community in question.

This solution would be implemented in legislation, which we would present when parliamentary time allows.We are seeking feedback on the key areas of the proposal.

We are not seeking views on the broader policy of whether or not to develop either the petroleum or geothermal industries in the UK, nor the potential risks and issues associated with surface works, because no change is proposed to the relevant legal and regulatory frameworks. 

Why We Are Consulting

This consultation concerns two fledgling industries: shale gas and geothermal energy, which may hold significant potential for adding to the UK’s domestic energy resources. Whilst these industries are both at an early stage, the Government is considering whether the existing legislative framework is fit for purpose to enable them to determine this potential.

We believe that, so far as underground development goes, the existing system does not strike the right balance between the legitimate interests and concerns of landowners, and the benefits to the community and nation at large of permitting development, where the development is otherwise acceptable in planning and environmental terms.

We belive the solution presented in this consultation would significantly simplify the existing procedure. The shale and geothermal industries will be able to proceed with developing their potential, and communities will be appropriately informed and compensated for this right of access.

Related Documents


Key Dates

Status: Closed

Ran from 23 May 2014 to 15 Aug 2014

Other Information


  • General public,
  • Oil and gas,
  • Construction,
  • Investment,
  • Manufacturing,
  • Technology (R+D),
  • Landlord,
  • Universities,
  • Think Tanks,
  • Local Government,
  • The Devolved Administrations,
  • Charities and Third Sector organisations,
  • Non-Government Organisations,
  • Regulators


  • Oil and gas,
  • Security and resilience,
  • Renewable energy,
  • Energy and climate change