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Guest Poost: End of planning permission at California Quarry, Dorset


Picture: Fossil Free Dorset

Guest post by Stuart Lane

In this Guest Post, Stuart Lane, chair of Fossil Free Dorset, reports on the expiry of planning permission this weekend for drilling at California Quarry, in Swanage. An occupation of the proposed site since September has now ended. InfraStrata was granted permission in 2013 for an exploratory borehole drilled from the site out to sea. The site is within the Dorset Coast Area of Natural Beauty,  110m from an nationally-important wildlife site and 500m from the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

Swanage in Dorset is celebrating this weekend, as it marks the end of planning permission for an onshore to offshore oil and gas well.

When planning was granted three years ago, stakeholders were unprepared to respond effectively to plans which were not well publicised and simply took them by surprise. Many weaknesses in the planning process and wider government approach have been exposed along the way, as people dug into the details.

california-quarry-newtThe status of the site is now happily reset and it returns to simply being a beautiful field within an Area Of Outstanding Beauty, a Site of Nature Conservation Interest and part of the World heritage Jurassic Coast. Despite all these protections and the fact that it is butting against a Site Of Special Scientific interest and within the territory of several endangered species, there is nothing within our overly-respected regulatory system to stop another planning request being made.


We think that investors would be less willing to risk money on this site now, however, and that even if planning were to be requested again, it would be a very different situation. Our considerable collective experience, alongside a galvanised community, added to the concern now being shown by various environmental agencies, will be a game-changer.

Even the offer of money has not swayed resolve and we were touched to learn that local earthworks contractors refused to be help prepare the site for drilling earlier in the year.

The land itself is owned by a local family that have strong ties to the area and their large quarrying business relies on a lot of give and take with the community. They would have observed the resolve of local people, the occupation of the site by our protectors and know that some of their core business practices have been queried. It would be of no surprise if they felt they had miss-judged this deal to lease land for oil and gas exploration and of course we would welcome a change of approach by them.

If we are to help do our part to keep climate change from taking all that we hold dear, we must respect and uphold the basic logic presented by our scientists. Two-thirds of tapped fossil fuel reserves must stay on the ground to give us a 50/50 chance of avoiding climate meltdown. The Sky Is The Limit Report is an excellent summary of what we must achieve:

This weekend we are going to enjoy our victory and let our hair down, but we are very mindful of the challenges ahead.

The spirit of the Tolpuddle martyrs is alive and well in Dorset and we stand ready.

Stuart Lane is chair of Fossil Free Dorset

14 replies »

  1. “What should be making front page news is the story revealed by the latest figures from the Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR), predicting the soaring cost over the next six years of all the “environmental levies” imposed on us under the Climate Change Act. Between now and 2022, according to the OBR, these will amount to £65 billion, of which £36 billion will be subsidies we shall all be paying through the “renewables obligation”, mainly to the owners of our ever-growing number of windfarms.”

      • Any comment on the amount of fossil fuel subsidies per kwh of produced energy, John? Or any comment on the fact that many of those subsidies come from third world countries where they are just trying to make sure that people don’t die from fuel poverty?

    • The use of fossil fuels is harming the planet and we have to invest in the transition to cleaner energy.
      This is also the case with the developing world.
      How we do this and how the cost is shouldered has been the choice of government. But it has to be paid for.
      The continued subsidy of fossil fuels masks their true cost and also slows transition. It does not help curb use. The subsidisation of fossil fuels should end. It would help increase investment in energy efficiency and green technology.
      We are all paying for our dependency on fossil fuels and the price doesn’t get much higher than catastrophic climate change.
      Even the World Bank states that ultimately it will be clean energy that help the world’s poorest.

      • “Greg Hunt has summoned the nation’s leading energy executives to Melbourne for crisis talks today on looming gas shortages that are causing spiralling prices and threaten manufacturing jobs.

        The Industry Minister will use the meeting to increase pressure on the Victorian and NSW governments to ease restrictions on gas exploration and development that has tightened supply as Queensland liquefied natural gas exports move into full swing.

        Today’s meeting comes ahead of a Council of Australian Governments meeting on Friday at which the federal government will tackle rising concerns about ­energy security sparked by the ­recent blackout in South Australia and steep increases in contracted gas prices for manufacturers.

        Mr Hunt has taken aim at “blanket” moratoriums on gas ­exploration onshore imposed by Victoria and NSW, which means the country is facing supply constrictions when there “is no shortage of supply”.

        • Is Gregg Hunt the latest hero peeny? I wonder if this is where you got the phrase “Energy Security” and “Energy Poverty” from? Interesting that he was Environment Minister, and counts his key achievements as establishing Australia’s successful Emissions Reduction Fund, developing the Great Barrier Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan and $1 billion Reef Fund, and establishing the Green Army.
          Hmmm, Successful Emissions Reduction?? Long Term Sustainability Plan?? In Australia?? Are you kidding me??…..Green Army?……are these the leftist tree huggers you denigrate so woefully?
          Lets see more of this chap then,
          “In 2016 he was selected as the inaugural Best Minister in the World recipient at the World Government Summit. Greg Hunt was appointed Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science in July 2016. The portfolio covers areas that are deep personal interests of his and flow directly from his work on the environment.”
          i think we have seen the results of his “work on the environment” many times on these pages and reports from those subjected to his “deep personal interest” and his “work on the environment”
          So Gregg Hunt intends to “take aim at “blanket” moratoriums on gas ­exploration onshore imposed by Victoria and NSW”? I think we should have a deep look at Mr Hunt and “take aim” on his selfless work for the environment in future.

          • Why don’t you just attack the man, right Phil. It’s always convenient when you want to deflect attention from the far more important issue – that Australia has gone bonkers pursuing a Green agenda in parts of the country and is now paying the price. Jobs and investment are leaving, prices are skyrocketing, blackouts are happening…..It’s not like we told you this would happen or anything, right Phil? LOL ‘o)

  2. Congratulations and what brilliant campaigning.
    Today the Mail runs an article of tsunami warnings based upon studies of underground landslips over millennia. Fracking is one more assault on deep underground cracks, crevices and sinkholes which will only add to seismic crevice movement exposing us to even more damage if allowed to go ahead.

  3. As if this was good news enough for Dorset, today there is more good news on the USA front,

    STANDING ROCK — Today (Dec 4th), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not be granting an easement under Lake Oahe for the Dakota Access pipeline to cross the Missouri River a half mile upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation. The Corps further stated that it plans to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for alternative routes. These actions trigger a new round of public involvement processes to permit the final piece of the pipeline as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The decision is major victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all who stood in solidarity over the last few months.”
    Amazing and unexpected news that shows that the tide is turning.
    The human cost however is quite horrific and the actions of police and militia have to be re-examined in the light of some of the terrible injuries sustained by the protectors.
    I find it edifying that it was the lower than ‘third class’ native citizens of USA who have been forced to endure endless genocide, theft of land and children to be indoctrinated “in the American Way” mostly torture, murder, rape and starvation, have been the ones to stand up an be counted in this illegal destruction of their reservation lands and sacred burial grounds, that were thought to be ‘worthless’ by USA government and the slow destruction of native ways and beliefs to make them little more than slaves in their own country. It just goes to prove that the process of deliberate slavery and ghettoisation of people will never destroy the spirit.

    it appears ‘Manifest Destiny’ is a two edged sword.

  4. How odd peeny you should accuse others of something you do all the time in these posts in your many guises. Treat others in the way you would like to being treated yourself and stay focussed yourselves.

  5. What they failed to mention was the fact that they had phoned the immediate neighbours to warn that groundworks & fencing was being installed from the end of Sept onwards.
    We scrambled to get there for the 25th (a Saturday). On the Monday a surveyor from the company turned up & talked to our Protectors who permitted him on the field, accompanied of course.
    He said he was conducting an ecological survey (we had complained about the lack of that during the previous month).
    Monday afternoon Infrastrata announced that they had no interest in drilling at California Quarry. Well, we KNEW that, because they had passed the bulk of the holdings to a new consortium called Corrallion in November 2015.
    However, they still maintained 14% interest in the drilling licence & the planning permission was still active.
    When we occupied the field we prevented them from initiating the ground works. Had they managed to get a spade in the ground, the planning permission would have been deemed to be taken up & they would have had free rein to install a rig at their leisure.
    By taking the field we have forced them to reapply for planning permission & this time, thanks to the camp, the community is well aware of the threat.

    • Thank you Frances excellent reporting and actions on behalf of the people of Dorset and across the country. We hope any subsequent planning application for this or other local sites will be examined with greater scrutiny. Perhaps the land owners will also consider their wider responsibility to the communities in Swanage and beyond?

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