Dart Energy’s appeal for an exploratory coalbed methane borehole at Dudleston Heath near Ellesmere in Shropshire has been downgraded from a public inquiry to hearing.
This means it will still be held in public but evidence from the company and opponents will not be cross-examined. It will go into less detail and run for about two days, compared with the estimated three days for a public inquiry.
Dart Energy is appealing against Shropshire Council’s failure to make a decision on its planning application by the target date. The appeal was originally to be dealt with by written submission. But after a request from the community group, Frack Free Dudleston, the Planning Inspectorate reconsidered and ordered a public inquiry. Dart swiftly complained that an inquiry was not needed.
Nearly than two months later, the Planning Inspectorate changed its mind again and decided on a hearing. Peter Rickett, a spokesman for the Inspectorate, told the Shropshire Star: “The case has been reviewed by a senior inspector and careful consideration given to the way the appeal should proceed. We are of the view that although an oral event is required given the case has generated a large level of local interest, it does not warrant an inquiry and the appeal should proceed to a hearing.”
“This will allow for relevant matters to be defined and considered by the inspector as well as allow interested parties the opportunity to put their views forward.”
Chris Hesketh, of Frack Free Dudleston, said he was pleased that the issue would be held in public and that local people would be able to attend. He said he wanted to avoid the appeal being decided by written representations because that would give the final say to Dart Energy.
“I want the process to get the right decision now – I would rather a long process and the right decision rather than a short process and wrong decision.”
The date and venue has not yet been set for the hearing.