Dover District Council Votes Unanimously (but one!) to Oppose Fracking
On Wednesday, 27 November 2013 Dover District councillors voted
almost unanimously to oppose fracking in our area, which we know to be
geologically unsuitable for unconventional gas drilling.
followed a Dover District Council (DDC) Scrutiny Committee hearing on 18
November at which studious citizen activists of Keep Shepherdswell Well and East
Kent Against Fracking, along with parish councillors from the front line
villages, and hydrogeologist, Graham Warren of the Campaign for the Protection
of Rural England (CPRE- Kent), delivered a dozen carefully researched speeches
which convinced the Scrutiny Committee to recommend that Dover District Council
should oppose fracking.
Several DDC councillors who had attended the
Scrutiny hearing praised the efforts of those who had addressed the Nov 18
hearing, and of District Clerk Rebecca Brough, who organised the administration
of the Scrutiny Committee’s investigation into fracking. This involved inviting
groups with views on the issue from all sides, including major stakeholders like
Affinity Water, and of course the applicants themselves, Coastal Oil and Gas
Sadly, neither Affinity Water nor CO&G Ltd attended these
hearings. Whether this was because the deliberations of the district council
were felt to be beneath their concern, or because they may prefer to take refuge
behind legislation that would minimise any responsibility for damage caused by
drilling, we cannot say. Certainly, Scrutiny Committee Chair George (Jim) Hood
had comments to make about their absence.
Consequently all the arguments
before the Scrutiny committee showed that fracking for any unconventional gas
extraction through the chalk aquifer under East Kent presents unavoidable risk
of irreversible pollution to the area’s primary water resource. Councillors were
also convinced by our arguments outlining potential damage in terms of traffic,
noise, air pollution, risk to natural habitat and marring of the rural beauty of
the area upon which its tourism income is based.
Having heard our case
with increasing awareness, DDC councillors were largely unimpressed by the
familiar half-truths we have all heard from central government and the gas
industry, about ‘no cases of harm caused by fracking’ and the promise of jobs
and economic revival through gas exploitation, that were put forward by the one
councillor who spoke up against the Scrutiny Committee’s recommendation. It was
gratifying to hear councillors using our arguments to rebut his statement.
Keep Shepherdswell Well and East Kent Against Fracking will continue to
use this straightforward democratic approach of researching the facts and
telling the truth; it seems to be working so far. The difference in our case is
that we knew enough to oppose it at parish level before it could go through on
the nod. We have an excellent team of committed local residents with an
amazingly fortuitous mix of skills and talents for creating a convincing case.
Is that enough to stand up to the would-be frackers and the powers that be? Time
will tell. For now, all local campaigners can chalk up another victory for the
protectors of the chalk aquifer.