To create a fairer society, by putting people first, communities must first have a voice. That voice must be heard and given due weight in any and every decision making process that could potentially affect them.
The following are extracts from Falkirk Community Councils representations to Dart Energy's application for the first commercial production of any Unconventional Gas anywhere in the UK. 9 Falkirk Community Councils with a population of close to 70,000 have made representations together with 31 farmers and over 2500 Scottish citizens living in Falkirk.
If approved it will set the precedent for the roll out of the Unconventional Gas Industry across the Central Belt - Scotland's heartland, where the majority of its citizens both live and work.
Airth Parish Community Council
"Our Community Council has devoted a great deal of time and resources researching and reviewing the application and associated documents. Many residents acknowledge that there is an ongoing demand for energy and as such there is support for continuing research and development into all forms of energy sources including renewables and available fossil fuels. However our residents need the assurance that any gas extraction in our area is safe and with minimum impact on the environment. We need to be certain that proper safeguarding measures by statutory organisations like SEPA and Falkirk Council are in place and will be maintained. We therefore ask Falkirk Council ensure that the questions and concerns raised by us on behalf our residents are put to Dart at the imminent public hearing which we will attend on behalf of the residents of Airth Parish."
Avonbridge & Standburn Community Council
"Further to sourcing background information on Dart Energy and establishing details of their current operations taking place under the PEDL 133; we have grave concerns as to the long term scale and impact of this proposed development across the Forth Valley."
Blackness Community Council
"We appreciate there are seemingly compelling potential economic and energy security benefits promoted by the applicant for the proposal. However there appears to be a lack of independent justification in the supporting documents to allay substantial concerns that these potential benefits could be more than offset by significant, long term, negative, environmental impacts. For example, if concerns already lodged with the Falkirk Council over the potential for the outflow from the proposed Gas Delivery and Water Treatment Facility to be contaminated are credible, then the proposal could impact on the whole Forth Estuary - a much wider area than currently being addressed. These concerns also call into serious question the applicant's track record in previous developments of this type, which is worrying because many of the justifications in the Environmental Statement (ES) are based on applicant's promises to use industry best practice to minimise the many potential risks in such operations."
Bonnybridge Community Council
"Is it true that in meetings recently at their Belgium exploration site in Flanders with FoE and government agency staff they made a u-turn (referring here to applicant - Dart Energy) in the use of drilling chemicals and withdrew previous promises not to frack in Belgium, despite having made the statement that the coal seam is not suited to this technique? Would we be correct in saying that in their "homeland" of Australia none of their sites are operational as a result of ongoing disputes with communities?"
Bo’ness Community Council
"Bo'ness Community Council is aware of considerable correspondence from local Community Councils and other organisations on this matter. We are not convinced that the activities are appropriate and wish to register a formal objection to the planning application in each and every site suggested."
Grangemouth (including Skinflats) Community Council
"Grangemouth (incl. Skinflats) Community Council being an adjacent CC with constituents likely to be impacted by these proposals has not been included by the applicant in any of its community consultation process. We first became aware of the significance of these proposals via contact with other CC colleagues and the local press. Subsequent contact with Falkirk Council Development Services resulted in GCC being invited to comment on these proposals on 28th November 2012.
"On 29th November 2012 we contacted the applicants by e-mail via their representative as advised by Falkirk Council Development Services, to request a meeting. We received a read receipt for our e-mail confirming that the message had been read on November 29th 2012 at 12:29:53.To date we have not been contacted by the applicant.(Date of representation 17th December 2012) As statutory consultees we consider this unwillingness to engage with us as concerning not only in relation the current planning process but as an indicator of future intentions.
"We have as you would expect been in touch with other CCs in relation to these proposals and have viewed their submissions. Suffice to say we share their collective concerns in relation to what is being proposed."
Larbert, Stenhousemuir & Torwood Community Council
"I write on behalf of Larbert, Stenhousemuir and Community Council to object to the above planning application. The Community Council has spent considerable time and resources researching and reviewing the application and associated documents. As part of this process, we met with Dart Energy (Europe) Ltd to discuss the application and following initial discussions at our meeting on 25 October 2012 at a meeting which was not open to the public at the request of Dart, we sought further clarification in writing from Dart Energy (Europe) Ltd on various elements of the application. At our open, public meeting on 26 November 2012, to which Dart were invited to attend but declined, over 100 concerned local residents attended the meeting to participate in a discussion on the application.
"Following this process of consultation, the Community Council concluded at that meeting on 26 November 2012, that it remained concerned over a range of matters, primarily environmental, and, given the level of public concern conveyed at our meetings, on our Facebook page, and by e-mail, we would object to the application.
"This Community Council recognises the ongoing demand for energy. We all need energy in our modern society and it is right that research and development seeks to maximise technology for production of energy. However, extraction must be safe, and where there are risks, proper safeguarding measures must be in place and should be seen to be in place. Given the information that we have researched and what we have been provided with to date, we are not convinced that the appropriate safeguarding measures are in existence."
Reddingmuirhead & Wallacestone Community Council
"We further conclude that, given the complexities and the relevant infancy of the industry, not just here but in the world, there may be insufficient corporate memory, knowledge, and experience to call upon to make it possible for the decision makers to make an informed choice...... We urge a very cautious approach on an application that could be one of the biggest in terms of impact ever seen in the UK."
Shieldhill & California Community Council
"This is a non sustainable development which will primarily benefit private organizations at the expense of local communities and the environment."
West Fife & Coastal Villages Community Councils Forum
Representing the villages of Blairhall, Cairneyhill, Carnock, Charlestown, Comrie, Crombie, Culross, Gowkhall, High Valleyfield, Kincardine-on-Forth, Limekilns, Low Valleyfield, Newmills, Oakley, Pattiesmuir, Saline, Steelend, Torryburn
"We object to the fact that the developers have not considered in any way the interests of Fife residents. This is important because discharge of waste from this proposed commercial-scale development of CBM extraction carries a known, proven risk of pollution. The more dangerous pollutants are carcinogenic benzene and toluene components, amongst others.
"Our joint Forum concerns over this development centre on the potential pollution and contamination from toxic waste discharge into the centre of the Firth of Forth. Although this originates in the Falkirk and Kincardine areas, it has the potential to contaminate the tidal flats, shellfish, and other marine life and natural habitats along the north coast of our inner Forth area.
"Members of the Forum feel strongly that Dart Energy should have involved our communities during earlier consultation phases. We are not aware that they have taken any baseline environmental measurements to date on this side of the Forth. Furthermore, we, in Fife, object to the basic working of the coal seams in the proposed Falkirk area without first considering in detail its impact on Fife coastal areas.
"We know from former miners in our Forum catchment area that there is a complex of linked former mine workings and access roadways between deep coal bed areas each side of the Forth**. We are unaware of any assessment made by Dart Energy of the potential for underground drainage and seepage of water that might affect groundwater to the north side of their workings extending into Fife coastal land. Ground water contamination from these old mine working is apparent from a number of rising water points contaminated with red ochre and oils.
** Former long-wall coal and other abandoned workings: typically Blairhall; Valleyfield; Bo’ness; Grangemouth