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Open letter to Salford Councillors: Urgent questions on Barton Moss planning permission

Below is the letter that Manchester Friends of the Earth has sent to all Salford councillors asking them to clarify what steps Salford Council will take to ensure that no activities are undertaken at Barton Moss that would be in breach of the planning permission granted for the site.  We will post any responses that we receive.

Dear Councillor

Friends of the Earth wrote to Salford City Council on 18th November 2013, highlighting major discrepancies between the original planning permission for drilling on Barton Moss and IGas’ current plans. (See attached letter). We have yet to receive a response.

Given that the site has been cleared and IGas are clearly preparing to start drilling we are urgently calling on Salford Council to clarify what steps will be taken to ensure that no activities are undertaken at Barton Moss that would be in breach of the planning permission granted for the site.

The planning permission granted on 17 June 2010 refers to boreholes being drilled for “coal bed methane”.

“Drilling of two exploratory boreholes for coal bed methane and production. The construction of a new access road off Barton Moss Road. The installation of wells, production and power generating facilities and the extraction of coal bed methane and the subsequent restoration of the site.” (Planning Permission, 10/58590/FUL, dated 17 June 2010)

However it is clear from documents submitted by IGas to the Environment Agency in connection with its application for a mining waste permit and diagrams on the IGas information panels that IGas intends to drill for shale gas at the site.

Igas does not have planning permission to drill for shale gas (it being contained in different strata from coal bed methane and extraction involving different processes). Steps to explore for and extract shale gas would therefore be undertaken without planning permission and in breach of planning law.

On 19th October 2013, Salford Mayor, Ian Stewart confimed that IGas does not have planning permission for shale gas.

”What will begin soon, undertaken by IGas, is coal-bed methane exploration drilling. There is no permission for ‘fracking’ in Salford,” Ian Stewart, the mayor of the city of Salford, wrote in an e-mail. ”Should the company or anyone else wish in the future to engage in ‘fracking,’ then they would have to seek separate planning permission from the council.” (New York Times, 19 October 2013)

No environmental impact assessment has been carried out at the site and the planning permission does not allow for shale gas exploration – which occurs at a much deeper level than coal bed methane.

We look forward to hearing from you what steps Salford City Council will take to ensure that no activities are undertaken at Barton Moss that would be in breach of the planning permission granted for the site.

Regards

Ali Abbas, Manchester Friends of the Earth climate campaigner

Pete Abel and Colette Humphrey, Manchester Friends of the Earth co-ordinators.

P.S. We understand some councillors feel they cannot publicly express on opinion on fracking because of predetermination rules.  However, these rules have changed so councillors aren’t excluded from voicing opinions. The clarified rules on predetermination still require a planning committee member to have an open mind when determining a planning application. However, proof of previous campaigning against a proposed planning application would not be proof that the member had a closed mind:

http://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2012/january-/localism-act-clarifies-rules-on-predetermination/

http://www.planningresource.co.uk/article/1173984/two-thirds-councillors-unaware-predetermination-rule-change

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