The UK Government is soon to be offering licenses to give companies rights to exploratory drilling and extraction of petroleum in the Forest of Dean. Although hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking' is the process most people are familiar with, petroleum extraction can take place through a number of processes which would be covered by the license, for example, coal bed methane extraction. It should be noted that although these licenses still require the licensee to seek planning permission for these activities, the government has recently brought in new rules which mean that it can effectively overrule local planning authorities decisions on the matter. In an extraordinary meeting of council on 16th September, West Dean Parish Council voted to oppose such operations taking place in the parish and also in the wider forest of dean. A press statement is available to the right of this page.
The government recently reduced requirements for it to consult with the public before drilling takes place. However, due to the requirements of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, the government was required to carry out assessments on the impact on areas of special wildlife value that are protected by EU law. West Dean Parish Council submitted a response to the consultation which closed on 29th September 2015. We are currently awaiting the results.
Other Parish and Town Council's including Cinderford Town, Ruspidge and Soudley and St Briavels have now passed motions expressing their opposition to fracking. Forest of Dean District Council, showing cross-party agreement, passed a motion on the 22nd October, expressing grave concerns about fracking in the Forest of Dean. A similar motion was briefly discussed at Gloucestershire County Council on 23rd October. The Council voted to refer the motion to their Environment and Communities Scrutiny Committee. A local anti-fracking group, Frack Off Our Forest (FOOF) has formed - see link to right. From their website, you can follow the latest developments on this issue.