Falkirk Council in no rush to deal with gas bid

Dart Energy has appealed to Scottish Ministers over its planning application for coalbed methan production
Dart Energy has appealed to Scottish Ministers over its planning application for coalbed methan production

Controversial proposals to drill for coalbed methane gas in the Airth area are unlikely to be decided on soon.

Dart Energy wants to carry out production at 14 locations in and around Letham Moss.

However, earlier this year the company lodged an appeal with Scottish Ministers over the non-determination of its application by Falkirk Council.

The local authority has said that it had been looking for further, more detailed information before deciding whether or not to give the go-ahead to the project.

Residents across the district have already voiced their concerns about the plans – which could operate for a minimum of 25 years – raising fears about its impact on health and the environment.

Following Dart’s representation, the Directorate of Planning and Environment Appeals (DPEA) has appointed Reporter Karen Heywood to take the matter forward. She has decided to hold a conjoined appeal with Falkirk and Stirling Council, as part of the application falls in the neighbouring authority’s boundaries and it also had to consider the proposal.

An update to members of Falkirk’s planning committee noted: “Ms Heywood considers the proposed development comprises complicated technical information that will be required to be tested by cross examination. Her view at this stage is that the cases should proceed by inquiry sessions.”

This means a pre-examination meeting needs to be held but it is unlikely to take place before the first half of October but may be later.

Additional environmental information produced by Dart in June following queries from Falkirk Council requires to be advertised and this will be carried out shortly.

Both councils now have until August 21 to submit a joint statement to list which matters have been agreed and which remain unsolved.

Once the appeal is to be determined, Ms Heywood along with David Buylla will jointly hear the case.

Falkirk Council has previously said it is keen to have an inquiry given the complex nature of the application and the high-level of community interest.

One of those opposed to the proposal is Larbert resident Dr Fiona Williams, who said: “Evidence from other countries shows unconventional gas drilling can cause significant health problems.”