‘Keep Forest frack free’ 

By Mark Elson   |   Senior Reporter   |
Wednesday 14th December 2016 10:28 am
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A CALL for the Forest to be a ‘frack free zone’ has been overwhelming backed by district councillors. 

The leader of the Labour group on the Forest of Dean District Council, Cllr Di Martin, said it would “send out a strong message from across the political groups that we are, and will remain, a frack free zone.” 

Gloucestershire County Council has also declared its opposition to fracking ‘in principle’, although the motion only passed because the majority Conservative group abstained on the vote. 

Cllr Martin (Lab, Cinderford East) told last week’s meeting of the district council that polls in villages around the Forest had shown a large majority against exploration for gas in the area. 

She also called for financial support for parish councils which had declared their areas frack free zones to enable them to put up roadside signs. 

Her Labour colleague, Cllr Paul Hiett (Bream), said it would be “sacrilege for this Forest of Dean not to support the motion”.

Leader of the council, Patrick Molyneux (Con, Woolaston and Hewelsfield), said he broadly supported Cllr Martin’s call, there were elements that were “tokenistic”. 

Cllr Len Lawton (Con, Newent Central) said he would prefer to see ‘higher authorities’ — the county council and government — declare the Forest frack-free. 

Cllr Chris McFarling (Green St Briavels and Newland) praised the “small but strong statement” proposed by Cllr Martin. 

He said: “How many mega storms, flooding events, seasonal disturbances and record temperatures need to hit us before we understand the urgency of our position?”

At Shire Hall, county councillors were concerned about plans to give communities affected by fracking financial incentives. 

Cllr Graham Morgan (Lab, Cinderford) said a ‘seismic event’ centred north of Birmingham had been triggered by test drilling for gas in Lancashire and felt in the Forest. 

He said: “Had they paid people in Lancashire, it wouldn’t have been much good to people in Gloucestershire.” 

Two licences for test drilling in the Forest were handed back to the government. 

The county council is currently drawing up its plan for mineral extraction which will include fracking. Councillors have to show they have an open mind when making decisions on it. 

Council leader Cllr Mark Hawthorne (Con, Quedgeley), said the motion to oppose fracking in principle was “premature”. 

He said: “That the licences have been handed back speaks volumes around the opportunities for fracking in this county. This is far too premature a motion   

“If members support the motion they will have to keep an open mind.  making the statement null and void. 

“This motion is about party political scaremongering We will not be participating in this farce and abstaining.” 

Cllr Barry Kirby (Lab Grange and Kingsway), who proposed the motion, said it was worded  so councillors  could express an opinion without prejudice. 

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