Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Local Towns In Wales, UK Keep Fracking Off The Agenda – For Now

By Michaela, Rob & Dinky of Transition Cowbridge

Fracking-protest1.jpgThursday, 20 October 2011, was a landmark day in the Vale of Glamorgan and one that should have a powerful effect around the country, and hopefully beyond. It was a day where community power helped to bring about a unanimous decision by the local county council to deny Coastal Oil & Gas the right to test for shale gas at an industrial estate on the outskirts of the village of Llandow.

A few months prior to this, in February 2011, all that stood between the multi-billion dollar highly environmentally damaging hydralic fracturing industry (fracking), and a test drill being carried out in the Vale, was one individual -- Louise Evans who runs a nearby caravan park. When Louise found out what was being planned she started researching the fracking process and started raising awareness. Louise set up a web site and the 'Vale Says No' campaign was born.

Frack Off!' 500 ft high Banner Drop Off Blackpool Tower

The local Transition towns, Transition Cowbridge and Transition Llantwit, have been active for the past three years. From the work already done we knew that there was a part of the community that did not need any convincing -- that something that had the potential to cause significant environmental damage, as well as keeping the focus on an unsustainable finite energy source -- must be halted.

The Vale Says No has had several public meetings to bring the issue of fracking and its consequences to the public's attention. Both Transition groups used their existing networks to rally as many supporters as possible, not only helping to generate a significant number of letters of objection, it was at one of these meetings that Coastal Oil & Gas was made aware they had failed to consider a house -- only 200m away from the possible drilling site -- in their application. This resulted in the gas compnay withdrawing their application. This have given the campaign the much needed time to carry out vital research into and gather further evidence.

However, once Coastal Oil & Gas re-applied for planning everyone was quick off the mark and Transition Cowbridge hosted a public meeting to a full house in the Town Hall. Word about the re-application spread via the website and the local press. Local councillors, Welsh Assembly members and community organisations received hand delivered invitations. Alarm bells rang as many of the people in attendence had not heard of fracking. This resulted in greater general awareness, and encouraged key community members to directly support the campaign.

A viewing of the feature length documentary Gasland, which highlighted the significant impacts that could result if fracking was allowed to take place, was hosted by Transition Llantwit.

Pressure was maintained by Transition and the campaign called for a 'peaceful protest' to take place outside Cowbridge Town Hall on the day that the Council were holding a roadshow inside. Students from a local College piled in with banners and well rehearsed chanting. The protest headed up the High Street on a day when the town was full of Saturday shoppers. A Dogs Trust charity shop was in the middle of a celebrity opening. John Barrowan is a patron and three hundred people had turned up. They all got the benefit of the marching protesters. More awareness raised!

The week of the planning decision arrived, and due to the significant awareness raised, the council felt it important to hold a scrutiny meeting. This gave both sides a chance to offer their reasoning’s for and against and resulted in some crucial questions being raised that defiantly helped to added weight to the councils final decision.

The day of the planning decision arrived and following a site visit by the councillors and a screening of Gaslands, the Planning Committee sat. They had been met on their way into the building by another lively but peaceful protest. BBC and ITV were filming and interviews were given to BBC radio, national and local.


Decision Time
Despite the electric atmosphere in the room there was a definite sense that the there was nothing else that could be done. With great relief one by one the councillors made their cases for overturning the application and in most cases a focused and passionate speech was given as to why neither test drilling or fracking should be allowed to go ahead. The decision was rubberstamped by the councils concerns over a letter sent by Welsh Water which had been voiced at the earlier Scrutiny meeting. If groundwater became polluted by drilling fluid they could not guarantee that the situation could be 'remediated'. “Once polluted, we would be stuck with it”.

The Positive Impact of the Transition Movement
By supporting the Vale Says No campaign, Transiton not only helped to quickly spread the issue to a much wider audience but also broaden the argument to one that incorporated the bigger picture of long term community happiness and resilience. And it was this level-headed approach that gave the campaign a real sense of credibility and one that helped convince the local planning committee to vote unanimously against the application.

Community Supported Campaign
So from a starting point of just one person it had very quickly become a community supported campaign that has succeeded in putting a very big spoke in the works for an industry blindly focused on finite energy extraction at any cost.

So where do we go from here?
Fracking is definitely not an issue just reserved for the Vale and as has been show in Blackpool this processes can happen all too fast and undetected if communities are not alert. And this is where Transition Towns all around the globe can play there part in not just being vigilant to fracking but continuing to do the great work they do at providing communities with a positive vision of life without the need for such unconscious acts.

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Links to invaluable info about fracking: ,,,