UK’s first public inquiry into unconventional gas extraction opens in Stirlingshire tomorrow

Dart EnergyThe UK’s first Public Inquiry into a planning application for commercial unconventional gas extraction at Airth in Stirlingshire opens tomorrow (March 18).

Over 2,500 objections were made to Dart Energy’s plans for the most advanced unconventional gas project in the UK. Concerned Communities of Falkirk, FoE Scotland and both Falkirk and Stirling Councils are opposed to the development.

The Reporter has agreed that the Inquiry will examine complex technical ground including potential public health and climate change impacts of the development. Its findings could set a precedent for unconventional gas plans around the UK.

Unlike shale gas, coal-bed methane extraction does not always involve fracking. Instead, coal seams are de-pressurised by pumping out large volumes of water. But when the gas flow starts to decline after a few years, wells are often fracked to increase productivity.

Friends of the Earth Scotland will be leading two expert witnesses at the Inquiry. Dr John Broderick of the Tyndall Centre will give evidence on the climate change implications of going after a new source of fossil fuels, and Prof Christopher Hilson of Reading University will present on the inadequacies of the regulatory framework in responding to the industry.

A number of areas in Scotland are already under licence for onshore unconventional gas development and in December the UK Government published a map of areas that could be licensed for future shale gas and coalbed methane extraction.

Mary Church, Head of Campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “The local community has made it resoundingly clear that they do not want this industry on their doorstep, or anywhere. It is our hope that the Inquiry will support this position and signal the end of the unconventional gas industry in Scotland.”

The Inquiry is currently scheduled to run for three consecutive weeks, as scheduled below.
Week 1 (Inchyra Hotel, Grange Road, Falkirk)


18-20 MAR: Geology, radioactivity, Hydrology/hydrogeology, Gas delivery and water treatment facility, disposal of waste water

21 MAR: Noise impacts, air quality, potential health impacts


Week 2 (Falkirk Stadium)

24 MAR: Video evidence on geology, radioactivity, hydrology/hydrogeology, Gas delivery and water treatment facility, disposal of waste water, noise impacts, air quality, potential health impacts

25 MAR: Impacts on the community

26 MAR: Noise impacts, air quality, potential health (am); National and local policy, benefits of the proposal (pm)

27 MAR: National and local policy, benefits of the proposal

28 MAR:  National and local policy, benefits of the proposal (am); Roads and traffic, habitats and ecology (pm)
Week 3 (Inchyra Hotel, Grange Road, Falkirk)

31 MAR:  Relationship to other permissions and consents, Restrictions on planning permission, Timescale of the development, Regulatory guidance, Monitoring arrangements

1 APR: Landscape and visual impacts, Conditions, legal agreements

2 APR: Conditions, legal agreements, Overspill and potential accompanied site inspection

3 APR: Overspill & potential accompanied site inspection

Dates for oral closing statements to be confirmed.

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