New Kent drilling plan and vote against frack-free status

Leaked document reveals new drilling proposals in east Kent, as Canterbury opposes frack-free motion

New plans for exploratory drilling at Tilmanstone in east Kent has been leaked to an anti-fracking campaign group. They came to light as councillors in Canterbury voted against a motion to make the district a frack free zone.

The plans were in an email from the chief executive of Coastal Oil and Gas, Gerwyn Williams. Until earlier this year, his company held licences across east Kent and last year it applied for planning permission for exploratory coal bed methane wells at Shepherdswell, Guston and Tlmanstone.

The email explains that the company has given up its drilling licences for part of the area: “Guston, Sheperdswell and Woodnesborough have all been surrendered”.

But it continues: “We have retained Tilmanstone area”. Mr Williams adds:

“Our intention is to drill an exploration hole in the coal measures. There are 14 main coal seams in Kent, Numbers 1-7 were fairly well worked but 8-14 are more or less unworked so we want to sample these lower seams.”

“I need to go through the process of telling Kent CC and the District and Parish Councillors as a matter of courtesy before holding a public meeting”.

We contacted Mr Williams by phone and email, asking for more details about the plans. He replied today by email:

“Morning Ruth, We are reconsidering the position in Kent at the moment and have a number of people to consult. Until we have concluded that process I am unable to give you any information sorry. I will contact you once we have a clearer picture”.

We also contacted Kent County Council and Tilmanstone Parish Council. The parish council said Coastal Oil and Gas had not been in touch. Kent County Council was unable to confirm that it has heard from the company.

Canterbury fracking debate

Mr Williams took part in a debate in Canterbury earlier this month (19/11/2014), at which he sought to defend fracking against five criticis of the process. Our report

Asked at the debate about his plans for Kent, he confirmed that licenses had been returned:

“Out of 356 sq km of licence, we handed back everything back apart from, I think, 75 sq km. We’ve only really got a very small area left in Kent.”

During the questioning, he denied he would be fracking shale:

“All this fuss about fracking shales: the Namurian shales, which are the equivalent of the Bowland shales, are not present in Kent. We’re not going to frack the shales. There are no shales here. “

However, under pressure from Julie Wassmer, of East Kent Against Fracking, he confirmed he was looking for coal bed methane gas, which can be fracked. He said his company was looking to drill at an industrial site but would not say that this was the Discovery Park (science and technology campus) in Sandwich.

EKAF’s chair, Rosemary Rechter, said: “It is ironic that this news should come so soon after a debate that so completely trounced the arguments for fracking”.

Frack-free council debate

Last night in Canterbury, the City Council rejected a move to make the district a frack-free zone.

The motion, proposed by Liberal Democrat, Mike Sole, read:

“This Council is opposed in principle to hydraulic fracking and all forms of unconventional gas and oil exploration and development in the Canterbury District, particularly on its own land.

“As landowner we will not allow such exploration and development on our land, although we would consider all planning applications on the planning merits of each.

“We support renewable energy sources such as solar, tide and wind.”

The council voted 27 against the motion, seven in favour and five abstentions.

Cllr Sole wrote on Twitter:

“Not a single Tory voted to support my anti-fracking motion at Canterbury Council tonight. Motion, residents and environment all lose”.

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