|Dear Mr Ball,
As the officer handling this application, in light of the all the controversy surrounding ‘fracking’ related activities, and bearing in mind he public comments made by Councillor Gordon Kemp, leader of Vale of Glamorgan council, in June (see this article that featured in the Western Mail on 15th June: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/cardiffonline/cardiff-news/2011/06/15/calls-for-welsh-government-to-take-control-of-south-wales-gas-reserves-91466-28880099/#ixzz1PMlQpIqG ), can we safely assume that you, or Councillor Kemp, or someone within the Vale of Glamorgan council will be requesting that this planning application be called in by the Welsh Government?
Councillor Kemp did, after all, write to Carwyn Jones asking the Welsh Government to take responsibility in planning matters relating to the exploration and exploitation of shale gas reserves. Coun Kemp recognised that a national Welsh framework policy needed to be drawn up by the Government to guide councils about whether drilling for the gas should be allowed. This clearly recognises that the council is not qualified to judge these issues.
We know that Carwyn Jones has had nothing to say on this issue publicly to date, despite being pressed by myself and others. We also know that the Welsh Government are uncomfortable with taking the issue on themselves, as all the Labour administration have publicly said is that it “would welcome” working with the UK Government on developing a framework for the whole of UK.
To some, this can appear to be ‘passing the buck’ to Westminster. To me, it is the perfectly reasonable response to an issue that has such complex and potentially dire ramifications that it should be dealt with properly at the highest level. This does not mean another fudge of an enquiry such as that chaired my Tim Yeo earlier this year. It means a national moratorium, as in France and South Africa, while a proper, independent, scientific study of what fracking would mean is undertaken. With my own background in geology and geography, I am confident in what the outcomes of a properly structured investigation would be.
In the meantime, you will be well aware that the original application stimulated great local opposition, focussed on the “Vale Says No!” campaign. This campaign group is still alive and kicking, but has developed and morphed into the “No Fracking UK” campaign group that has fostered links with the Co-operative and garnered support from across the political spectrum both locally (Alun Cairns and Jane Hutt for instance) and nationally.
This application, more than any other in South Wales, will become the focus of intense interest again. I personally can assure of this through my representation of the anti-fracking movement in South Wales at high profile events throughout September (Green Party Conference, the national Camp Frack event near Blackpool, and a high profile event being sponsored by the Co-operative in Bridgend – more details on this soon).
So, Mr Ball, do your duty to the people you serve and ensure that this application is handled in the right context and by the people that ultimately need to take responsibility for what is at stake here.