Licenses issued for fracking exploration in West Wiltshire
A government consultation on fracking in areas including Wiltshire has just closed. It was a secretive consultation, "sent out to licence holders and representative bodies with a particular interest in this matter and the management of the specified protected areas", according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
As a qualifying representative body WC has sent in its response, saying it "broadly agrees" with the government's proposed approach to restrict surface developments in specified protected areas (National Parks, the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), World Heritage Sites, Source Protection Zones 1, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Natura 2000 areas and Ramsar sites) through license conditions.
WC is keen to emphasise that fracking is a Government-led process and there's no point in members of the public contacting the council with their concerns.
Meanwhile the areas of Wiltshire previously identified as frackable have now been licensed for exploration - see earlier article.
The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has formally offered licenses for the four blocks within Wiltshire. The licenses for these blocks will contain conditions to protect ecological sites.
The blocks are ST84 - Warminster/Longleat; ST85 - Trowbridge/Westbury; ST94 - Chitterne/Imber Range; and ST95 - Erlestoke. The license offers have been made to South Western Energy Limited (company address Bridgend). Although their applications indicate the 'type' of activity as coal bed methane extraction, the award is for a Petroleum Exploration and Development License (PEDLs) that covers any hydrocarbon and is not indicated to the 'type' specified.
The award of a PEDL does not automatically give permission for operations to begin. The necessary planning and regulatory consents will be required before development can take place. All proposals will be looked at by the Environment Agency, and by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Consent from the OGA is also required before exploration or production drilling or production activities can start.
Wiltshire Council, as Mineral Planning Authority, has not received any planning applications to date, nor has the Council been contacted by SWEL regarding their license applications.
The next step in the process will be for the operator to engage in pre-application discussion with Wiltshire Council as Mineral Planning Authority, with statutory consultees (Environment Agency, Natural England and English Heritage) and local communities.
As with any planning application town and parish councils may also be contacted directly by the operator as part of their community engagement activities.
Picture credit - www.foe.co.uk
Update. Conservative Ministers are keen to ensure local councils and communities don't impede fracking companies, according to the Telegraph. Article