Falkirk East’s MSP Angus MacDonald welcomes Scottish Government decision to recall Dart Energy's two planning appeals for the production of coal bed methane in Falkirk district
Monday, 13 October 2014 09:57
Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald has welcomed the decision by the Scottish Government to recall two planning appeals which 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. No hydraulic fracturing is proposed at the site.
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. The DPEA reporter conducted the public local enquiry earlier this year and an imminent decision had been expected prior to the Scottish Government’s recall.
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.”
Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald said;
“I am pleased that the decision has been taken to recall the two Dart Energy planning appeals. It is important that the right decision is taken for Falkirk district and these matters should never be rushed. There is considerable opposition to unconventional gas extraction building up around the country and it would be folly for any Government not to take cognisance of that.
“Unfortunately we are in this position because of the ‘gung-ho’ attitude of the UK Government who are issuing licenses left, right and centre throughout vast swathes of Scotland’s Central Belt.
“It is a source of great frustration that, to date, UK government decisions regarding unconventional oil and gas have proceeded with very limited consultation with the Scottish Government.
“I firmly believe that these powers should be devolved to Scotland as part of the enhanced devolution settlement which the Westminster parties vowed to deliver, and the SNP have been making the case for these powers to come to Scotland. This would allow the Scottish Parliament to properly consider the issue.