Campaigners claim major blow to Shropshire gas-drilling plans
Plans to drill for gas in the Shropshire countryside have been dealt a potentially fatal blow, according to campaigners.
Developer Dart Energy has missed a contractual deadline to start work on the site in Dudleston Heath, near Ellesmere, members of Frack Free Dudleston claim.
They believe that even if a planning inspector grants Dart Energy permission to drill on the site, the ruling will be worthless as the landowner is reluctant to extend the arrangement.
A group of "protectors" who have spent almost a year living on the site have said they will leave in the near future.
The campaigners have been fighting Dart's plans to operate an exploratory borehole for coal-bed methane extraction in Dudleston, near Ellesmere since September last year.
A statement from the group said it believes the "threat has pretty much gone away".
Dart Energy put in the plans last year but when Shropshire Council failed to make a quick decision on the scheme, the energy company appealed. The final decision on whether or not to grant permission now lies with a government planning inspectorate.
The campaigners' statement says: "The proposed coal-bed methane test drilling will not now happen because the access licence with Mr Hickson, the landowner, has now lapsed.
"When Dart Energy started the process of applying for permission to drill in spring 2014 they thought that the actual drilling would take place that autumn. The residents of the Dudleston area looked into the proposals with an open mind and then almost unanimously concluded that it was seriously bad news for the community and the environment and would not provide a meaningful source of energy for the country.
"The planning application was contested by the whole community and is continuing its slow and tortuous passage through the planning appeal process.
"Now that the access licence with Mr Hickson has lapsed, it is technically possible for Dart to win the appeal and end up with a permission that they have no ability to utilise.
"Frack Free Dudleston is confident that that won't happen and are working with Shropshire Council to present a thoroughly robust case that should establish a national precedent for an unconventional gas application being refused planning permission at appeal."
The campaign group also thanked the Dudleston Community Protection Camp for their work to prevent any drilling from taking place.
The protectors said they are delighted with the news.
"We will be taking down the castle and leaving, but it will take time as we want to leave the site as we find it," one of those who have lived at the camp for almost 12 months, said.
No-one from Dart Energy was available to comment.
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