Two planning appeals were submitted to the Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) in June 2013 against the non-determination of planning applications by Falkirk and Stirling Councils for the development of coal bed methane production (at 14 locations – 11 within Falkirk Council and 3 within Stirling Council).
The proposed development includes the drilling of 22 wells, development of inter-site connection services, site access tracks, a gas delivery and water treatment facility, ancillary facilities, infrastructure and associated water outfall point.
Decisions on planning appeals are usually made by reporters from DPEA. However, Ministers have powers to recall any planning appeal for their own decision but would only do so if there are ‘particularly sensitive’ issues or matters of ‘national importance’ involved.
In these cases, following consideration of all relevant matters the reporter produces a report, containing a recommendation as to whether the appeal should be upheld or dismissed. On receipt of the report, Scottish Ministers will give consideration to the reporters’ recommendations and will issue their decision on the appeals.
A revised Scottish Planning Policy was published on 23 June 2014. These introduced a number of new policies for onshore oil and gas to ensure that the impacts of proposed developments on local communities and the environment are ‘acceptable.’
Some industry observers, however, believe that these are politically-inspired, nebulous and subjective criteria and which may yet be subject to an ultimate Judicial Review appeal.
Consequently, Ministers will now take the decision over Dart Energy’s appeal for the proposed development of coal bed methane production at a number of sites in the Falkirk and Stirling Council areas.
Planning Minister Derek Mackay said: “The decision has been taken in light of the considerable public interest in the proposals, as well as its relevance to the implementation of the new recently updated Scottish Planning Policy.
“Scottish Ministers therefore believe there is a national interest that would be best served by further scrutiny of these proposals.”
No hydraulic fracturing is proposed at the site.