Joan McAlpine MSP has welcomed assurances from the Scottish Planning Minister that he will consider her demand for a 2km buffer zone around unconventional gas extraction sites.
The minister Derek McKay’s pledge came after South of Scotland member Ms McAlpine told MSPs about the problems faced by her constituents in Canonbie, where Dart Energy and Buccleuch estates propose to drill for Coalbed Methane.
Ms McAlpine highlighted the most recent FOI request by Canonbie Residents Against Coal Developments that revealed faulty boreholes at Canonbie and the risk of polluting aquifers.
Ms McAlpine - who also sits as a substitute member on the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee that helped scrutinise the National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3) - said:
“The village of Canonbie in Dumfries-shire has been extremely badly served by the current planning system, which has allowed, under delegated powers, full permission to Dart Energy, working with Buccleuch Estates, to drill for coalbed methane at 19 separate sites around the village.
“SEPA does not come out well either when we study the Canonbie experience. In August 2012 a paper was submitted to the organisation’s water and land policy regulatory support group that identified poor borehole construction at Canonbie.
“Despite that report, no action was taken with respect to the breach of the licence.”
The SNP MSP added:
“I fully endorse the proposal to create a buffer zone between unconventional onshore gas extraction and communities. In fact, I went further than some others on the committee in supporting a buffer zone of at least 2km, as proposed by Alison Johnstone MSP.
“Like the rest of the committee, I welcome the minister’s commitment to consider whether the application processes for unconventional gas extraction and hydraulic fracturing fully involve communities. For that reason, the committee recommended that the final Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) provides fuller guidance to planning authorities on that matter, particularly to take on board the environmental and social impact that these developments can have on communities.”