Dart Energy will have to face cross-examination by a local campaign group in its planning dispute over coal bed methane exploration in Shropshire.
But today the campaign group, Frack Free Dudleston, revealed that it had been given the right to cross-examine Dart at a public inquiry and call its own witnesses.
The Planning Inspectorate ruled that FFD should be granted Rule 6 status. This means the group will be debating the case alongside the company and Shropshire Council. “This is another very encouraging step in the right direction”, FFD said.
Dart appealed in January over the failure of Shropshire Council to decide its planning application by the agreed deadline. Councillors had voted against the advice of officers to refuse the application. But before they could confirm the decision, Dart appealed.
The company urged the Planning Inspectorate to decide the application by written representation. This would have meant no evidence would have been heard in public and supporters and opponents would just exchange documents.
FFD argued that there should be a public inquiry because of the local interest in the appeal and the Inspectorate agreed. Dart then objected and the Inspectorate downgraded the appeal to a hearing, which would still have been in public but would not have involved cross-examination of witnesses.
FFD then submitted its case and the Inspectorate upgraded the appeal back to a public inquiry. The date for the inquiry has yet to be confirmed.
At the recent public inquiry into Europa Oil’s application to drill near Dorking in Surrey, the Leith Hill Action Group had Rule 6 status. Its barrister challenged the evidence presented by the company and called expert witnesses. In West Sussex, Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green were also awarded Rule 6 status in the scheduled inquiry into refusal of Celtique Energie’s application for exploratory oil drilling. KKWG was preparing its case when Celtique withdrew from the appeal.