Ministers want to give energy companies the right to run shale gas pipelines under private land, Whitehall sources have confirmed. The planned move – aimed at kick-starting the fracking industry – will be included in the Queen’s Speech as part of an Infrastructure Bill.
The companies will still need planning permission to drill for shale gas.
But they will be able to install pipes to transport the gas under private land without fear of breaking trespass laws.
Prime Minister David Cameron has also indicated that the government could cut subsidies for land-based wind farms when it has “built enough to meet all our targets”.
Ministers fear landowners and anti-fracking protesters would use existing law to block shale gas extraction in the UK, as it suggests prior permission is needed to run pipelines thousands of feet below private land.
BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said the Infrastructure Bill would make clear that putting pipes under private land would not constitute trespass – but it would also give the affected landowners the right to compensation.
Ministers are worried that other countries – especially in eastern Europe – have been making fracking there appear more attractive to investors than Britain.
They believe a clarification in the law will send a positive signal to companies.
The prime minister’s official spokesman confirmed the government was looking at ways of making test drilling easier and to ensure there was not “an overburden of red tape and regulation”.
He added: “Fracking is something that is very new, certainly in this country, which is why we are looking to see whether there are particular obstacles to the test drilling.”
A conference on the potential economic benefits of fracking is to be held in Blackpool on Thursday.