The yo-yo that is Dart Energy’s appeal over its coal bed methane application at Dudleston in Shropshire seems to have finally come to rest at a public inquiry.
In January 2015 Dart appealed against Shropshire Council’s failure to make a decision on the application. It asked for the appeal to be dealt with by written representation. The Planning Inspectorate, which handles appeals, agreed.
But local residents, who had opposed the application, complained that the issue was too complicated for written representations and there was widespread public interest. More than 500 people, including most residents living near the proposed site, had objected to the plans.
The residents asked for the appeal to be dealt with by a public inquiry. This would allow their representative to cross-examine Dart on its plans. The representative would also have an equal amount of time to speak as the company and Shropshire Council.
The Planning Inspectorate agreed and upgraded the appeal to a public inquiry. But then Dart Energy complained, saying cross-examination of witnesses was not needed and asked the Planning Inspectorate to reconsider.
The Planning Inspectorate agreed again and downgraded the appeal to a hearing. The evidence would still be in public but it would be shorter, go into less detail and there would be no cross-examination of witnesses.
But then the residents, represented by Frack Free Dudleston, submitted their case.
Yesterday they heard that the Planning Inspectorate had upgraded the appeal for a second time, back to a public inquiry.
Chris Hesketh, of Frack Free Dudleston, said the Inspector had decided there was too much evidence to handle at a hearing. He said:
“We are very pleased about the latest unexpected turn of events. It does mean that the start date has been reset again and another timetable will need to be discussed.”
“I am firmly of the view that it is in the interest of groups like ours to press for the upgrade because it provides for a more thorough assessment of the evidence.”
Planning officers at Shropshire Council had recommended the application be approved. But councillors on the planning committee voted against the advice and said they were minded to refuse.
The councillors said they believed the application contradicted local planning policy and would lead to disturbance from noise, light and vibration. They were also concerned about potential pollution, loss of public amenity, poor economic return and risks to groundwater.
The decision was adjourned and before the planning committee could confirm it Dart appealed on the ground of non-determination.
Catch up on the background of the Dudleston appeal