We have had a busy few weeks recently, culminating in some excellent news.
First the planning appeal was upgraded to Inquiry by the Planning Inspectorate after they’d received our statement of case, thus showing that they are giving our points very serious consideration. This then allowed us to become the Rule 6 participants in the process.
Then Shropshire Council appointed an expert team of consultants to fight their case. Because the council’s team was appointed close to the submission deadline they requested an extension to the deadline. This has been granted and you may have read about it in the local papers. If the Inquiry runs its full course then it could be 2016 before we get the planning decision.
And now the latest news is that the Access Licence with Mr Hickson which allowed access to the site has lapsed. This alone means that the drilling will not take place and hence the Dudleston Community Protection Camp have started to dismantle their camp.
The planning process is ongoing but becomes slightly irrelevant given that, even if granted, it could not be used. The final result of course will be the moment when the planning application is refused.
As you know, the local papers are excellent and we are sending them the press release at the foot of this email.
FrackFreeDudleston, along with the Dudleston Community Protection Camp, would like to make the following announcement. The proposed CBM test drilling will not now happen because the Access Licence with Mr Hickson, the landowner, has lapsed. When Dart Energy started the process of applying for permission to drill in spring 2014 they thought that the actual drilling would take place that autumn. The residents of the Dudleston area looked into the proposals with an open mind and then almost unanimously concluded that it was seriously bad news for the community and the environment and would not provide a meaningful source of energy for the country. Since then Defra have been forced to publish their own research showing that communities will indeed suffer. The modest amounts of money being promised to local councils as a softener for granting permission will do nothing to mitigate the impact on the people who live nearby.
The planning application was contested by the whole community and is continuing its slow and tortuous passage through the planning appeal process. Now that the Access Licence with Mr Hickson has lapsed, it is technically possible for Dart to win the appeal and end up with a permission that they have no ability to utilise. FrackFreeDudleston, on behalf of the community, are confident that that won’t happen and are working with Shropshire Council to present a thoroughly robust case that should establish a national precedent for an unconventional gas application being refused planning permission at appeal.
In July 2014, the Dudleston Community Protection Camp arrived at the site with the aim of physically preventing any drilling from taking place, as had happened in other areas around the UK. In Chester the planning permission was granted over a year ago and has still not been implemented because a similar community protection camp was established on the site and remains there today. That is happily no longer going to be necessary here and we would like to thank Yellow and his colleagues on behalf of the community for their dedication to the cause.
An important question is whether the threat of drilling to find gas has gone away from this area for good. There are no certainties, however we have established that this area is geologically unsuitable. We have also established that we have a very united community, willing to stand up for itself in defence of the rural way of life that we enjoy. Almost all landowners in the area now understand the harm that would be inflicted by even just test drilling for gas and they know that they would be letting everyone else down if they were to sign up. Provided we remain united, the threat has pretty much gone away.