Friday, 29 July 2016

CWaC Labour's flip flop on fracking

You couldn't make it up.

The CWaC Labour manifesto on which they were elected in May 2015 said they would introduce a moratorium on fracking if they were elected.

Having made that promise to the Borough's electorate and having narrowly won power the ruling Labour Group had the embarrassment of the Borough Council's Monitoring Officer telling them that it would be unlawful for such a policy to be adopted by the council.

If that wasn't bad enough the council's cabinet has just approved for public consultation Part II of the draft local plan.  It is this part of the plan that contains the policies that will regulate exploration and extraction of novel hydrocarbons (including by fracking).

When the policies were debated in draft at the Local Plan Working Group I argued strongly that the policies proposed were not strong enough.  I wanted to see explicit protection of the environment written into the policies - and crucially a policy that explicitly sought out and gave the local community the decisive say when it came to deciding whether such developments should go ahead.

Well, whilst the officers did take on board some of my concerns - and they did amend the draft policies and strengthen them somewhat, but they did not, in my view go far enough.

When the draft policies were considered by the Cabinet on 20 July I pointed out Labour's fracking moratorium embarrassment, how their original draft policies had been partially strengthened by my amendments - but that they had not gone far enough.  I suggested to them that they should have courage - and reject that aspect of the draft plan.

So did they rise to the occasion?  Did they reject this aspect of the draft plan?

They decided to go out for 6 weeks public consultation - almost certainly over the summer when many of us will be going away and when many town and parish councils don't have meetings.

A good time to bury bad news perhaps?

If you'd like to see what happened at the Cabinet on 20 July you can find the video on the council's website following this link 

Just scroll down to item 9 and watch.  Item 9 is about more than fracking by the way!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Windfarm liaison panel meeting

We had a meeting of the Frodsham wind farm liaison panel last night.  A number of issues were raised:

  1. Peel say the turbines will be completed by the end of July - but the electrical commissioning won't take place until the end of September.  At the moment all the Frodsham turbines have been erected.  Whilst they are currently rotating slowly in the wind they are not operational yet.  There are 11 turbines erected so far with 8 more to go.  All the remaining turbines will be in front of Helsby.  The only further development at the Frodsham end will be an 80m anemometer mast.  This will have weather sensors attached to it.  It will be a lattice construction which is expected to be 'lost' when looking towards Ineos.  There are another 24 abnormal loads to go!  
  2. The target is for all the remaining turbines to be completed by the end of July.  There have been weather delays - and Peel are looking for co-operation from CWaC and local residents to extend the working hours on site as a means of dodging bad weather.  This has been tried informally already without any complaints so we can expect working on into the evening when the weather is good.
  3. The work on the access tracks is now on hold until all the remaining construction and commissioning works are completed.  The roadway contractors will return later and restore the roadways.
  4. Peel have a habitat creation group led by their consultants Atmos looking to preserve and enhance the bird habitats.  The RSPB have requested an environmental improvement scheme to create small scrapes for wetland birds.  However they have not been formally engaged - but discussions are continuing.  Atmos have found that the birds have not been disturbed by the erection of the turbines and that birds are nesting - including the rare marsh harrier.   Peel's planning permission requires them to monitor the wildlife in the vicinity of the windfarm over the lifespan of the windfarm.  Peel will be looking for consultants to do this work shortly.
  5. Peel have found that the special protection area birds are declining - but this is believed to be a naturally occurring phenomenon.  The Eurasian Marsh Harrier (a protected species) is seemingly nesting quite happily in the midst of the windfarm and the construction activity.  The precise location of where the marsh harrier is nesting is not being publicised.
  6. Peel have asked that anyone engaging in birdwatching confine themselves to the permissive rights of way.  They have requested that people not stalk the birds wearing camouflage in the reeds where they potentially put themselves at risk in meeting cranes of the mechanical not feathered variety!
  7. We talked about the complaints procedures that Peel have.  There are specific complaint routes for issues such as noise, flicker, interference with tv reception and the like.  We will receive a particular briefing on these arrangements at a later meeting.  We heard about a complaint that has been received complaining about the brightness of the turbines.
  8. I raised national cycle route 5 and the desire for it to be upgraded.  Peel have met with CWaC officers over public rights of way on the marshes.  I raised the importance of safe routes to school and made suggestions how that could be done.  Peel have promised to engage about this issue. They have plans to upgrade some of the routes on the marshes. I emphasised that they could assist safe cycling to Helsby High School by facilitating other routes too.  We were all in agreement that creating a web of safe cycling routes to Helsby High School from Frodsham, Helsby and Elton would be a benefit to all the communities.
  9. I also raised the issue of the community benefit fund, it's management and, crucially its transparency.  We are to have a briefing at a later meeting.  I'm told that the management documentation is with lawyers at the moment.
  10. School liaison meetings- children will be given a chance to learn more at meetings at Forest Hills Hotel in Frodsham - where they will be able to see the array 'in full.'

If you want any further information do look at the Frodsham wind farm website.