The Dart Energy Public Inquiry relates to the 'Appeal under section 47(2) of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 by Dart Energy (Forth Valley) Ltd concerning coal bed methane production, including drilling, well site establishment at 14 locations and associated infrastructure at Letham Moss, Falkirk, and Powdrake Road, near Airth, Plean'.
Concerned Communities of Falkirk (CCoF) was formed by local residents who oppose Dart Energy's plans and we are actively involved in the Public Inquiry, along with Dart Energy (the Appellant), Falkirk Council, Stirling Council and Friends of the Earth Scotland. CCoF's legal team also represent nine of Falkirk's community councils and the West Fife & Coastal Villages Community Councils Forum.
The Public Inquiry began on March 18 2014 and consists of Inquiry sessions and Hearing sessions. Here are the statements we (CCoF) submitted in advance of the sessions, and you can read the other parties' statements on the DPEA website for Planning Permission Appeal Case PPA-240-2032:
Here are the closing submissions from all parties to the Public Inquiry which were presented on April 15 and 16 2014:
- Friends of The Earth Scotland closing submissions
- CCoF closing submissions plus our List of Authorities - i.e relevant case law and documentary evidence referred to in our closing submissions (24MB)
- Stirling Council closing submissions
- Falkirk Council closing submissions
- Dart Energy closing submissions part 1 - Mr Steele QC
- Dart Energy closing submissions part 2 - Mr Telfer
- There followed a further CCoF response to Dart Energy's closing submissions (plus Appendices) on August 7 2014 which the DPEA Reporters agreed to accept on August 11 2014
- Dart Energy's rebuttal comments on CCoF's late submission on regulation 48 of the Habitats Regulations were submitted on August 26 2014.
- On the final deadline day for comments a SEPA representative emailed the DPEA saying that "it would not be appropriate for SEPA to comment on the requirements of regulation 48 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc.) Regulations 1994, insofar as they apply to the grant of planning permission".
- And, finally, on September 17 2014, in response to the SEPA representative's email regarding the submissions by DLA Piper & CCoF, the DPEA confirmed that "the reporters do not require any further submissions on this matter".
Note: The further submission from CCoF on August 7 2014 related to information obtained under Freedom of Information requests, the need for which arose from Dart Energy's closing submissions and the inferences and position they adopted regarding the Firth of Forth Special Protection Area. CCoF could not have reasonably anticipated the inferences and position adopted by Dart Energy and could not have responded earlier (due to the need to await responses to its FOI requests). Reasons for making these submissions, together with reasons for why the Reporters should allow in this material (including to avoid a potential breach of EU Habitats Directive obligations under article 48 of the 1994 Regulations), are set out in more detail in section 1 of the submissions. On 11 August 2014 the Reporters agreed to accept these further written submissions from CCoF in response to the appellant’s closing submissions.
Further written submissions regarding SPP and NPF3
After hearing all the evidence at the inquiry and hearing sessions, the DPEA reporters realised that their decisions would probably be ready in June 2014 'in the normal course of events'. However, as the Scottish Government also intended to issue the amended Scottish Planning Policy in that month, the reporters' decisions will not be completed until they have seen the amended policy and also seen parties' views on that policy and the related National Policy Framework. Although an additional inquiry session had been provisionally agreed for 5 and 7 August 2014, on viewing the the amended policy all parties who took part in the inquiry and hearing sessions agreed that it was preferable for evidence to be submitted in writing and that there was no need to re-open the inquiry to hear the evidence.
Follow the links below to the NPF3 and SPP which were published on June 23 2014:
- Scotland's third National Planning Framework (NPF3) sets out a long term vision for the development of Scotland.
- Scottish Planning Policy (2014)
And here are all parties' submissions on the NPF3 and SPP:
- Dart Energy - NPF SPP submission on July 15 2014
- Supplementary Closing Submissions by Friends of the Earth on July 29 2014
- CCoF Response re NPF3-SPP Appendix 1 to CCoF submission both on July 29 2014
- Falkirk Council submission on July 29 2014
- (Stirling Council did not submit any further responses on the NPF3 and SPP)
- Dart Energy - Final SPP and NPF3 submissions on August 8 2014, which refers to DECC SEA Appendix B (16MB), submitted separately on 11 August 2014
- Submissions on behalf of Falkirk Council addressing legal issues arising from Dart Energy’s Final Representations on NPF3/ SPP on 22 August 2014
DPEA decision delayed and then recalled to Scottish Ministers
On 11 2014 August the DPEA reporters agreed to accept further written submissions from CCoF in response to the appellant’s closing submissions to the Dart Energy Public Inquiry (see above for details). The appellant and SEPA were given until September 9 to respond. Dart submitted their rebuttal comments on August 26 (the original deadline) but SEPA waited until September 9 before a representative informed the Reporters that they are "of the view that it would not be appropriate for SEPA to comment on the requirements of regulation 48 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc.) Regulations 1994, insofar as they apply to the grant of planning permission". And on September 17 we received an email from the DPEA confirming that "the reporters do not require any further submissions on this matter".
Finally, on October 2014 we were informed that Scottish Ministers have decided that the Dart Energy appeals should be recalled for their own determination due to the "high level of public interest in these proposals".
Further delays (and likely further procedure) due to the Scottish moratorium on unconventional gas
In an email to CCoF dated February 5 2015, David Henderson, Head of Performance and Administration, Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals, wrote:
"I refer to the announcement made in the Scottish Parliament on 28 January 2015 by Mr Fergus Ewing, Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, that there is to be a moratorium on granting consents for unconventional oil and gas developments in Scotland while further research and a public consultation is carried out. The moratorium is to continue until work including a full public health assessment, and a review of current planning guidance and environmental guidance, is complete.
"Having regard to the announcement and to the fact that it is likely that further procedure will be required in these appeals in order to consider the outcome of the assessment and review and any other relevant matters that may arise before the moratorium comes to an end, the reporters will suspend work on their report to Ministers and the appeals will be sisted to await the outcome of that process."
Follow the links below to find out when and where the sessions took place (the timetable) and who represented CCoF as witnesses or advocates. You can also download and read our expert witnesses' precognition statements.