Inquiry day 8 – Planning, energy policy and wishful thinking
Dart’s planning expert spent all day at the witness table today, several hours of it under the politely merciless scrutiny of our lawyer.
Dart tried to go through all the historical sites for which they still had current planning permissions. For one site they said they needed a plan from Falkirk Council to be able say where their own site is, for another they couldn’t say when planning permission would run out, and couldn’t identify which site had also required planning permission from Stirling. Quite remarkable for a company which is trying to convince us they know what they are doing.
Dart’s witness stated that the Inquiry doesn’t need to take into account Scottish policies on energy. He also suggested that the vision of a low-carbon, safe, successful Scotland presented in the National Planning Framework was ‘wishful thinking.’ This really didn’t go down well.
He had to concede that when the Scottish Government said over 500 people had expressed concerns about ‘fracking’ in a planning consultation, they had actually said ‘unconventional gas,’ a term which includes both coalbed methane, like the Dart application, and fracking.
There was strong questioning again on how local people can exercise their right to engage in the decision-making process when much of the information is missing – on geology, mining history and chemicals – from the application. The witness didn’t seem to think much of local opposition, talking about people being whipped up to protest and dismissing the need for residents to come together to fight Dart’s proposal.
As we enter the home stretch the atmosphere is getting more tense with Dart’s QC being heckled from the audience twice today.