Fracking Assurances are not Set in Stone or Even Shale Rock(January 18, 2016)
Warminster Town Council have unanimously backed a motion calling on Wiltshire Council to take more action to prepare itself for the onslaught of unconventional oil and gas planning applications.
"I am obviously very concerned at the news that fracking has been licensed for all the reasons that I gave at the meeting of this council in September," said Cllr. Paul Macdonald at the civic centre tonight.
"Although I am tempted to repeat them now I will just touch briefly on them.
"This is the time for facts first, facts, not fracks first. It is not for me to make an anti-fracking speech," said Cllr Paul Macdonald at a full meeting of the town council.
"Facts about chemicals used, aquifers and pollution, spillages, dirty water and pollution, monitoring, abandoned wells, infrastructure strain, many likely impacts and baseline establishment all readily come to mind.
"There many other questions that need to be asked and points to be made but I will take them up at another opportunity.
The meeting was attended by nine other councillors and half a dozen members of the public.
"We now know that it is likely to be coal seam bed which adds to the need for what councillor Steve Dancey and I are putting forward.
"Addressing the three requests to Wiltshire Council for action I make them as a positive way forward at this moment in time.
"Since tabling this motion I have found out that a neighbouring minerals and planning authority which already has conventional oil and gas extraction has indeed held a conference for interested parties.
"It is Hampshire. They have held their public conference which brought a wide range of interested parties together.
"Their county council has a more recently adopted minerals policy than Wiltshire. Here it was adopted in 2009.
"They have nonetheless decided that it needs a supplementary planning document to bring it up to date with the emergence of unconventional oil and gas production.
"If Hampshire, having a good knowledge of this industry where Wiltshire have none, have done this then it will be a major let down, I could use stronger words, to the residents of Warminster and Wiltshire as a whole if the unitary authority do not do at least as much here.
Not Set in Stone
The meeting then heard about concerns about how the decisions could be taken away from public eyes.
"Turning to the third request about the issue of planning applications and how they are handled.
"This form of minerals extraction often requires multiple well heads which could lead to multiple planning applications.
"According to government planning guidance the individual application can be for three phases of ‘hydro carbon’ but they can be done singly.
"As a local councillor and cabinet member told a recent meeting of the area board the applications may not appear for a considerable amount of time.
"And that the planning applications can be called in by the local member implying that this will happen.
"I am sure that county councillors would do this but it is not set in stone or even shale rock that this will happen.
"And in just over 15 months time we could have new councillors elected."
Cllr Paul Macdonald then added a new request which he intends to take up separately when Wiltshire Council consider its response to these ideas.
"It is so important that this is consistently open to public scrutiny and that all decisions should be debated in meetings of councillors in full view of those they represent.
"And I now add my view that as these applications could see the mining extended horizontally underground beyond the parish boundary that all neighbouring parish and town councils are involved in the consultation process.
"This is the agreed way forward for Poole Borough council which is a minerals and planning authority which has made the neighbouring authority of Bournemouth a key consultee.
"To sum up I believe this approach is the sensible one for us as a town council representing our residents and a sensible way forward for Wiltshire Council."
*A Warminster town councillor declared that he was dual-hatted at the meeting as Chairman of Strategic planning at county hall and would have to abstain. The nine remaining voting members passed the motion unanimously