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On Tuesday 26th July No Fracking in Barnsley held an open meeting to discuss the wording of the Minerals Policy in the draft of BMBC’s Local Plan. It was a well-attended and lively meeting at which a number of local residents expressed their opinions.

The outcome was that local people will be encouraged to comment on the consultation, we will request BMBC change the Minerals Policy to our proposed wording below, also inserting more robust protections. We will also request that BMBC organise a public meeting, offering local people an opportunity to learn more about fracking in the area and for BMBC to listen to their concerns.

Thank you to everyone who attended the meeting.

BMBC Minerals Policy (unconventional oil & gas), Local Plan

The current draft consultation document of the Local Plan contains the following text in your Minerals Policy (Section 22, MIN1);

  • proposals for the exploration and production of oil and gas (including petroleum, natural gas, coal mine methane, coal bed methane or underground gasification of coal), will generally be supported;
  • proposals for the exploration and production of shale gas via hydraulic fracturing will generally be supported.

We appreciate that BMBC need to remain impartial on the subject of fracking and we would like the wording of the policy to more closely reflect that position.

We suggest that the wording in changed to the following;

  • proposals for the exploration and production of oil and gas (including petroleum, natural gas, coal mine methane, coal bed methane or underground gasification of coal), all planning applications will be considered on their individual merits and take in to account the applications cumulative impact.
  • proposals for the exploration and production of shale gas via hydraulic fracturing, all planning applications will be considered on their individual merits and take in to account the applications cumulative impact.

We are also concerned that criteria based protections in the policy are not robust and would like to request that the following is included;

  • An applicant for planning permission for fracking or shale gas operations (including test drilling and extraction) must demonstrate by appropriate evidence and assessment that reasonable scientific doubt can be excluded as to adverse impacts of the proposed development alone or in combination with other developments:
    On the quality and quantity of water resources, including groundwater and water courses;
    On air quality (including through emissions of methane and sulphur);
    On seismic activity;
    On local communities;
    On greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
  • Planning permission for fracking or shale gas operations (including test drilling and extraction) will not be granted unless:
    (a) the Council is satisfied that all reasonable scientific doubt that there is any risk of adverse impacts has been eliminated;
    (b) the proposal will not compromise the Council’s duties in relation to climate change mitigation; and
    (c) the proposal is environmentally acceptable, or it can be made so by planning conditions or obligations.

It has also been expressed that the consultation exercise has not offered Barnsley residents the opportunity to learn more about the proposed policies in the plan, or discuss their concerns with officers. Also that the comments form (both on-line and on paper), is not worded in a manner that lay-people understand and therefore is not accessible. Government guidelines state that consultations should be clear and concise, and be informative.

When we attended the consultation event in Barnsley on Saturday 23rd July, we were told by the officer present that he could not discuss fracking with us. We find it incredible that we were not allowed to discuss a policy contained within the plan at a Local Plan consultation event.

Awareness that unconventional oil and gas exploration may soon be coming to Barnsley is still growing. We consider that the people of Barnsley deserve an open and honest debate about fracking and it is important that BMBC engage and listen to their concerns.

We would like to request that BMBC hold a public meeting on the subject of fracking/unconventional oil and gas in the area, where information of the areas that have been licensed, the methods of hydrocarbon extraction (particularly hydraulic fracturing and underground coal gasification) including on-site works and duration, the planning procedure, the possible dangers and mitigations, and the regulatory framework are all laid out for residents to see.

We are always happy to work with Barnsley Council and consider that this can be done without BMBC compromising their impartiality.

No Fracking in Barnsley
http://nofrackingbarnsley.org

Source: http://nofrackingbarnsley.org/news/open-letter-to-barnsley-council

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