Nick Boles, the planning minister, said it would be “unnecessarily excessive” to require companies to contact every home and business sitting above the large underground areas identified in applications.
Shale gas extraction typically involves drilling down more than a mile and then turning 90 degrees to drill horizontally across large areas.
Companies would still have to negotiate with land owners before drilling under their land but would no longer have to contact them when making the initial application for a well site.
Under usual planning rules, developers are obliged to notify every household and business potentially affected by works.
Mr Boles said in a statement that shale exploration was different from other forms of development because it was “often not possible to identify the exact route of any lateral drilling”.
The development on the surface was “relatively small” but “the associated underground extraction takes place very deep below the earth’s surface, over a wide geographical area”.
He added: “Without the changes to the secondary legislation, the widely-drawn area on planning applications for on-shore oil and gas projects would require the notification of a disproportionately large number of individuals and businesses. This would be unnecessarily excessive when other forms of complimentary notification exist.”
Companies will instead be required to publish a notice in a local newspaper and put the plans on display at a public venue in each parish affected.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said people living close to a proposed well pad, or area on the surface where drilling would commence, would still be personally notified of an application.
But those living farther away would not be personally informed because the horizontal drilling would be “so far under the ground that it would not make any difference [to them]”.
The shale industry is discussing with the Government how the law could be changed to prevent landowners from blocking extraction under their properties. The companies want legislation allowing them to drill deep under land without the owner’s consent.
Greenpeace is recruiting landowners to its campaign against shale gas extraction. It is encouraging them to make an explicit declaration that they do not give permission for drilling.
Tony Bosworth, Friends of the Earth energy campaigner, said: “People should be notified personally if firms want to drill or frack for oil and gas under their homes – removing that right is a further blow to local communities who are rightly concerned about the impacts of fracking.
“Earlier this week the Government accepted that fracking could have potentially significant local impacts. Ministers should be strengthening rules to protect local people, not weakening them in yet another sop to an industry that wants to keep us hooked on dirty fossil fuels.”