Vale of Glamorgan refuses fracking gas test drilling

Campaigners from the Vale Says No group Campaigners were outside the council meeting in Barry on Thursday

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Councillors in the Vale of Glamorgan have unanimously rejected an application to test drill for shale gas in the county.

They said the potential risk of pollution to ground water following a letter from Welsh Water made the application difficult to accept.

Coast Oil and Gas Limited wanted to test a site at the Llandow Industrial Estate near Llantwit Major.

The Bridgend-based company said it was likely to appeal the ruling.

In its letter Welsh Water said it believed there was "a very small risk" of contamination of its reserve groundwater sites from the proposed exploratory drilling.

But it added: "If there is an excessive loss of drilling fluid to the aquifer during the drilling procedure due to unforeseen geological features being met, then this level of risk increases."

Councillors visited the Llandow site to see how the application to test drill would affect businesses trading from the industrial estate and the houses nearby.

The application was opposed by The Vale Says No campaign group.

Members of the group had campaigned in Barry, where the council met on Thursday night to debate the issue.

Analysis

Iolo ap Dafydd, BBC Wales environment correspondent

Almost all councillors spoke of their fears about pollution if fracking for shale gas took place following a positive outcome to test drilling in Llandow.

Several said they felt the planning committee needed advice and guidance from the Welsh government as well as the UK government, because drilling for shale gas was of national importance.

Some councillors said they felt the Welsh government was passing the buck by insisting the councillors had enough power and control to make their own decision, whether that be test-drilling or possibly in future fracking for shale gas.

Most said they accepted there will be an appeal. Cliff Patten - a planning consultant for Coastal Oil and Gas - affirmed after the meeting it was likely.

Many councillors also felt a public inquiry was needed.

The group had expressed concerns about an element of drilling for shale gas called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

It involves the high-pressure fracturing of rocks such as shale with a mixture of water, sand and chemicals.

It is a process which has been condemned in several US states.

In Europe, France has banned fracking after 100,000 people signed a petition, though the Polish government has been more supportive of using shale gas as an energy source.

Campaigners from The Vale Says No had claimed that gas drilling, especially shale gas drilling, could be "potentially catastrophic" and would shatter the peace of a rural area.

The side effects of fracking are still being investigated after two earth tremors near Blackpool last summer.

Gas drilling in that part of Lancashire has been suspended. Concerns are on contaminating any underground water, and which chemicals are pumped at high pressure to release shale gas.

Gerwyn Williams, owner of Coast Oil and Gas, had said the plan was still at the exploration stage and the firm had no intention of fracking in the near future.

He said the potential in terms of energy security and local jobs was considerable.

In July shadow UK energy minister Huw Irranca-Davies called for the UK government to embed shale gas in its wider energy policy.

The Ogmore MP said with the decline in North Sea gas and the UK's increasing reliance on imported gas, it could have potential.

He said if extracted properly, shale gas could be a source of cheap affordable gas and be part of the UK's low carbon future.

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