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.
The 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
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