Thank you for the opportunity to take part in what I hope will be a useful and constructive exercise. In view of the evidence submitted on the damage and threats from this industry and current policies to democracy, public confidence and good government this is a welcome opportunity for more honesty, openness and transparency.
I am a resident of Chester and I speak for several local community groups which have been established to oppose this industry and to encourage instead development of sustainable energy resources.
It would be good to know if other organisations such as the RSPB, Friends of North Cheshire Green Belt, Civic Trust, National Farmers Union or the Zoo are present as they might have been expected to attend and give evidence today. In this respect I wonder if they were invited or if the notice and call for evidence on the Council’s website was adequate and more might be done for future meetings.
We have submitted specific evidence for this session and shall submit further evidence for later sessions. Our evidence includes International, National and Local Regulatory Matters and we recognise that some of this is outside the control of this council. However, we all as citizens and electors have some influence at all levels of government and we expect that the exercise of this working group will help to develop policy and inform the public and representatives at all levels.
To prove credibility we have submitted evidence of original sources and references which we urge you to read.
The evidence of Public Interest Issues submitted however is brief and accessible and should be addressed in this or subsequent meetings.
Evidence on risks and Risk Assessments is submitted but our main concern is that we cannot accept the common claim that residual risks are low when mitigation methods are unproven and low is too high where the aim should be elimination. No level of risk is acceptable for our health and our water supply which are much more precious than gas.
A big issue, the elephant in the room is the effect on Climate Change, which had been excluded from the terms of reference of this group except where it relates to the local plan. Without pressing this issue now we advise that how it is considered in the working group will affect the credibility and acceptability of any conclusions to this exercise.
We are encouraged by examples where unconventional gas and oil extraction has been stopped as in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria and parts of Australia, Canada and the USA.
Locally, Wirral, Wrexham, Shropshire and East Cheshire have rejected recent proposals for drilling and this authority, CWaC, is potentially the toxic meat in the sandwich.
Elsewhere applications have recently been rejected also in West Sussex and Lancashire.
You must ask why this industry is being rejected and you will find lots evidence in our submissions to this and subsequent sessions.
Contamination of our aquifer would affect neighbouring authorities and a large part of Britain and climate change affects the planet.
So we encourage the members of this group and others to resist this dash for gas and instead exercise the precautionary principle and concentrate on clean, renewable energy for a secure and sustainable future.