In 2012 a planning application was made near Falkirk in Scotland by Dart Energy (now owned by INEOS) to develop the UK’s first commercial UOG facilities. To put this application in context, there are typically four stages to UOG commercial development: exploratory, appraisal, production, and decommissioning. Nearly all the UOG development in England is currently at the exploratory and appraisal stages, but by 2012 Dart Energy had already reached the production stage.
In response, local residents set up a group called Concerned Communities of Falkirk (CCoF). CCN members helped to host a series of meetings and workshops to allow residents to explore questions such as, “what do you want for your grandchildren?”, “what made you come to live in Falkirk?”.
We came to realise that behind nearly every resident’s remark was an unspoken desire to have a sense of ownership and control over their “lived experience”. This insight became the ground for a legally arguable objection to Dart Energy’s planning application: that its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was inadequate since it did not assess the impact of the UOG project on the community’s lived experience - an element we said of their “cultural heritage”. Falkirk’s Community Charter sets out the intangible and tangible assets that shape such experience.
In April 2014, 2 members of the Community Chartering Network, Mothiur and Jamie, formed part of the team representing Concerned Communities of Falkik (CCoF) at a public inquiry into Unconventional Oil & Gas (UOG). By then, the Community Charter had been “adopted” by eight Community Councils and CCoF was given a main seat at the Inquiry, along with Falkirk Council and Friends of the Earth Scotland. Together with the determination and hard work from CCoF residents, CCoF’s legal team presented a strong case about the risks of UOG development and also a case for the inadequacy of the EIA vis a vis the Community Charter.
On 10 October 2014, Scottish Ministers "recalled" the decision for themselves from their Reporters, due to the "national interest" in the matter (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-tayside-central-29573755).
Whilst we waited the outcome of this recall, Scottish Ministers made the decision to announce a moratorium on all Scottish planning applications for UOG development, until further evidence had been gathered on its risks.
This is a brilliant and unexpected outcome. Whilst we don't know what the decision of the Reporters or Scottish Minsiters would have been, the moratorium provides an opportunity for communities to come together and find their collective voice to push against an economic vision that is not in tune with their vision for themselves.
More about the Public Inquiry process can be read at this link here (http://www.yestolifenotomining.org/falkirk/)