End of the Consultation Phase
In this post:
- Planning objections
- Lobbying Shropshire Council
- Owen Paterson MP
- Protection camp
First of all a huge thank you from all at FrackFreeDudleston for making your voice heard and for putting those objections on the planning portal. There are currently 468 objections on the site and an analysis of the names shows that there are relatively few people in the area that haven’t objected. This is the strongest message possible that the test drill is not wanted in this area and for completely valid reasons.
Dart said to many people in their Open Meetings that they would not go where a community did not want them. We know that Dart monitor our website so Dart, we would like to officially request that you withdraw your application, if you are indeed people of your word. Can we have your comment please?
Should Dart not be true to their word, the planners and councillors will be taking note of all of these objections, including the 32 page document from FrackFreeDudleston, which was submitted on behalf of all of us. See below for a link to the document.
The UK Government has this week issued the latest round of Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDL), which means that half of Britain is now available for gas companies to put in their applications to drill. This includes most of Shropshire, including Shrewsbury. It is not a matter anymore just for Dudleston or the other sites earmarked already in North Shropshire.
As you may remember from the FrackFreeDudleston’s Public Meetings, the Dept of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) report on coal bed methane concludes that Shropshire is not geologically suitable for extraction. A test drill to extract a sample of coal will verify the amount of gas, but won’t provide any information about whether extraction is viable. That either has to come from existing geological data, or by drilling an extraction well and giving it a try.
Trying to extract in an area that is not suitable would come with a very high risk of underground contamination, therefore the sensible approach would be to require that the geological data be checked first. Taking that one step further, and given that the data already exists, it would be sensible to look at that before conducting the test drill. Why inflict a three month 24/7 drilling operation on a quiet rural community if subsequent extraction is not going to work?!
Unfortunately Government planning guidelines stipulate that test drilling applications be considered without reference to future extraction phases. Shropshire Council used to have a planning policy that required all oil and gas proposals to explore the whole project at the earliest possible stage, however that has been partially overruled by the new national policy.
FrackFreeDudleston attended the full council meeting at Shire Hall in Shrewsbury recently to speak against the Shropshire Council intention to trust that the planning process will come up with the right answer on CBM extraction applications. Chris Hesketh asked that the council not allow any application to be approved without proof from a reliable source (preferably DECC) that actual extraction is geologically possible.
A very lively debate kicked off, which was then adjourned in favour of there being a cross-party working group to inform the council, taking input from Chris as well as industry experts. Now two weeks later we are waiting for the first signs of that group to appear….
Another avenue that has been explored is that of asking our local MP to help. Thank you to everyone that has written letters to Owen Paterson MP. We firmly believe that a renewable energy strategy would be better for Britain (broadly the same cost as CBM but would provide clean energy for many years instead of a short burst of dirty energy). Owen is publicly strongly in favour of fossil fuel companies so rather than try to win that argument we simply asked that he look at the situation in his own constituency.
In a much-overheard follow-up discussion at the Dudleston Fete, Owen indicated that after the initial meeting he’d checked with the Government experts and was told that extraction in this area would be “impossible”. Chris put it to him that he needs to be helping stop the test drill application however his dismissive response was that he “doesn’t do planning”. Now that he is no longer the Environment Minister we need to be pushing him to take more of a local perspective. If you would care to visithttp://www.owenpaterson.org/contact and let him know that his people need his support then that would be very helpful. Despite his claim, he can make a big difference and has done so on other planning issues.
More news that you are probably already aware of is that The North Shropshire Community Protection Group have set up camp on a discreet corner of a field that is part of the planned drill site. FrackFreeDudleston have no actual connection with the group and is continuing with its strategy of spreading awareness and opposing the planning application. Although the case we have made against the planning application is very strong, there are no certainties when overall Government policy has been tilted so firmly in favour of drilling companies, especially at test drill stage. If the application was approved then this kind of site occupation is a useful next line of defence.
We have visited the camp and are happy to say that they are pleasant, friendly people, very well informed on the environmental issues and are keeping a tidy and unobtrusive presence. They have a rota system so that they can return to their jobs and families whilst ensuring that the camp is always occupied. We are very pleased that the Protectors are there and hope that the community welcomes them. Several local residents have already been to visit them.
Their group are also providing another unexpected service. It would appear that there have been people attempting to interfere with the badger setts close to the site. On two occasions the Protectors have disturbed groups of people in the middle of the night. Bovine TB is a very serious subject for farmers and the experts say that risks of cross-infection from badgers are extremely low if the badger population is left undisturbed. Thankfully the nocturnal visits appear to have now stopped.
FrackFreeDudleston will continue to lobby against the application and will keep you informed of progress. West Sussex council refused permission at Wisborough Green and we have even stronger planning arguments than they did. A decision is not expected on the Dudleston application until mid September.
Please feel free to contact us via the website or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
With best wishes
Click here to view the 32 page group objection.