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Shropshire gas drilling bid 'would have been refused' by council

North Shropshire | News | Published:

Plans to drill for gas in Shropshire would have been refused by councillors – if they still had responsibility for the decision.

Members of Shropshire Council's north planning committee confirmed at a meeting yesterday they would have turned down a bid to drill a single coal-bed methane exploratory borehole in Dudleston, near Ellesmere.

But the decision has already been taken out of the hands of councillors after applicants Dart Energy appealed to the Government's Planning Inspectorate to make a decision on the plans following a delay of several months. The decision will now be made by a planning inspector based on written submissions only.

The committee had stated it was minded to refuse the application in October, and confirmed its stance at yesterday's meeting at Shirehall in Shrewsbury.

The decision has been welcomed by environmental campaigners despite the announcement having no bearing on the project.

Councillor Steve Davenport, Shropshire councillor for St Martins, told the meeting: "I could speak on this issue for 20 minutes-plus but since the last committee meeting I know members have gone away and researched the industry.

"If this were plans to approve an industrial unit on agricultural land that could contaminate the water and damage the area it would not have got through the door."

Councillor Vince Hunt, for Oswestry West, said: "We gave this application a good discussion before and were minded to refuse. We still refuse the application on the previous grounds."

Following October's meeting, Shropshire Council asked Dart Energy to provide more information about aspects such as potential noise impact, potential impact on private water supplies and potential impact on structural stability of a slurry lagoon.

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But Dart Energy has maintained its belief that it has provided enough information for a final decision to be made. They say the drilling operation would last for a maximum of 60 days and the land would then be restored.

Dart Energy is now due to hear directly from Government planning inspectors whether its plans have been approved.

Chris Hesketh, member of campaign group Frack Free Dudleston which is opposed to the scheme, said he welcomed the decision made by councillors.

After the meeting, he said: "I want to thank the members of the committee for listening to the people of the Dudleston area.

"The application has not been made with the best interests of the community or indeed the county. My main impression is one of respect for the elected councillors.

"The crucial next step is for the council to pick up on the robust planning issues that have been raised again, and to submit a thoroughly researched statement into the appeal process."

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