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Did your councillor reply to the fracking questionnaire?

From Charles Gate

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Calderdale Green Party questionnaire on fracking sent to Calderdale councillors –

Dear Councillor

You will be aware of the recent controversy over the issue of fracking of shale for gas and oil. Please, let us have your answers to the following two questions.

1. Your party supports fracking. Do you?

2. If an energy company wanted to frack for shale gas and/or oil within Calderdale's boundaries will you be supportive of that company or will you oppose any intention to frack?

Councillor Tim Swift Lab (Town Ward) and Leader of the Council responded, 'Thank you for your email which arrived whilst I was on leave. My answers to your questions – which also reflect recent discussions and views within the Labour group – are as follows:-

1. Your party supports fracking. Do you?
Firstly, to say simply that all of the major parties are 'in favour of fracking' and therefore take the same position nationally is highly misleading. The Labour party's national position is that fracking should only be considered if a number of stringent conditions can be met.

In addition, Caroline Flint MP has been highly critical of the way Government misleads the public by implying that shale gas fracking is likely to have a massively beneficial short-term effect on supply and price in the UK. Instead, she argues for more effective support for renewable and low-carbon energy sources. This position is radically different from that adopted by the Conservative- Liberal Democrat coalition.

However, in answer to your specific question, neither I nor Calderdale Labour group support the further development of fracking as an energy source at the present time.

2. If an energy company wanted to frack for shale gas and/or oil within Calderdale's boundaries will you be supportive of that company or will you oppose any intention to frack?

Given the answer to 1 above, I would not support any application for fracking within Calderdale.


Cllr Benton Tory responded, 'Thank you for your email. I would be equally interested to hear the views of our local Green party on these matters?'
Cllr Stout Independent did not respond.
Cllr Ann Martin being Mayor was not sent the questionnaire.

Cllr D Young Lab responded, 'I am totally against Fracking as you are and I am pleased to report there are no applications in Calder Ward and also none in Calderdale. If there were and I don't think there will be then I will oppose it.'
Cllr Battye leader of the Lib Dem group and Cllr Fekri Lab did not respond.

Cllrs Allen Lib Dem, Ford Tory and D Hardy Lib Dem did not respond.

Greetland and Stainland
Cllr James Lib Dem and Cllr Wardhaugh Lib Dem did not respond.
Cllr Winterburn Lib Dem responded, '1.Haven't made my mind up yet but am minded at this stage not to support fracking. 2. the question is hypothetical as the maps which have appeared in the press from time to time do not indicate any reserves of exploitable gas bearing shale within the Calderdale area.'

Hipperholme and Lightcliffe
Cllr Hall Tory responded, 'Thank you Charles for your email I will contact you in the next few days.'
Cllr Kirton Tory responded, 'I do not know enough about fracking to enable me to come to a conclusion about the issue, I know as we all do that a lot of people seem very unhappy about the issue.
With regards to fracking in Calderdale I would need to consider an application at the time if one was ever submitted and this would need a lot of very careful thought.
Cllr Raistrick Independent responded, 'In answering your questions, indeed any questions, I like to have all the facts available. I read a piece in the Times this week about fracking. It quoted an American politician who said "you are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts".
When I know the facts, I'll have my opinions.'

Illingworth and Mixenden
Cllr B Collins Lab (Deputy Leader of Council) forwarded the council's official response to a question on fracking, asked at cabinet on Monday (5th August) by Cllr Nash.
Cllr Lambert Lab did not respond.
Cllr Sutherland Lab (Chair of Planning) responded, 'Firstly I believe there is a slight misrepresentation of my party's position as I understand they are opposed to extension in the current circumstances regarding safeguards. I am not going to define myself by a blanket opposition with regards something (and this would also rule me out of making planning decisions on an issue) but I am very concerned that David Cameron's big push on energy is to further invest in fossil fuels through fracking. Especially in the context of getting very mixed messages on renewable energy. That is before we even talk about the environmental and safety impacts of fracking vs. renewables. The information we have coming out of America with regards these impacts is very disconcerting and I would not be supportive of proposals which carried a real risk of these same impacts happening here. Personally though I don't see fracking really coming to Calderdale due to our unique geography, dense population and absence of recoverable deposits.'

Luddenden Foot
Cllrs Beacroft-Mitchell Lib Dem, Marshall MBE Tory and S Young Lab did not respond.

Northowram and Shelf
Cllr Baines MBE leader of the Tory group did not respond.
Cllr Caffrey Tory responded, 'I have had numerous debates over this with residents, and feelings are mixed. Fuel poverty v fracking is not an easy one to answer. With some individuals profiteering from wind turbines and the substantial public funded subsidy of such power generation one has to weigh the pros and cons. It is an ongoing debate as to which causes the most environmental damage. Suffice it to say, for now, that to date resident objection to turbines has caused more negative feedback than fracking.'
Cllr Taylor Tory responded but did not want his answers made public.

Cllrs A Collins, Rivron and Smith (all Lab) did not respond.

Cllr Ali Lab did not respond.
Cllr Lynn Lab responded, 'I do not support fracking, and would oppose its operation in Calderdale. I believe that the priority nationally must be a major expansion in renewables.'
Cllr Shoukat Lab responded, 'I have yet to explore all the arguments around fracking but given the lack of evidence base and negative press I would not support it within Calderdale or near any residential dwellings. One must also consider the devastating impact on ecology and the environment. No doubt countless landscapes will be destroyed in the pursuit for fossil fuels.'

Cllrs Beal, McAllister and Pillai (all Tory) did not respond.

Cllrs Barret, Carter and Thornber (all Tory) did not respond.

Cllr J Hardy Tory responded, 'As with many proposals there are some things which are black and white and some which are varying shades of grey, this is one such situation. Support would depend on where such work was to be undertaken and the impact on the countryside and the residents.
In the current climate of searching for resources within our nations boundaries some exploration is taking place to find new energy sites and this has been highlighted in the press.
I have to be honest, as I always try to be, and say I cannot say I would support any such exploration in Calderdale, it would depend on where such exploration was to be undertaken.'

Cllr Nash Lib Dem responded, 'I asked a question about fracking at Cabinet last Monday (5th August) and was told that no applications have been received or granted although I have subsequently discovered we have places in Calderdale where fracking could take place. I have been doing some further research and am not happy with what I have discovered. The man who designed the machinery for this has just died. It has been done in the States for years. There have been problems such as water courses affected, both polluted and diverted accidentally, allegedly leaving some communities without water and again allegedly earthquakes on the scale of 3. I know we need energy but until I know more I am against it.'
Cllr Thompson Tory did not respond.

Sowerby Bridge
Cllrs Draycott, Wilkinson (both Lab) and Peel Tory did not respond.

Cllr Booth Lab responded, 'I will fight against fracking with my life.'
Cllr Goldthorpe Lib Dem did not respond.
Cllr Sweeney Lab responded that he didn't support his party's position on fracking and he would oppose fracking in Calderdale.

Cllr M Swift Lab did not respond.
Cllr T Swift Lab Leader of the Council see above.
Cllr Metcalfe Lab responded, Re your question 1- I have major concerns and for the foreseeable future I do not support fracking.
Question 2 – In what I believe is an unlikely event – but I would oppose any proposal by any company intending to frack

Cllr Baker Lib Dem responded, 'Personally I'm opposed to fracking. Releasing even more fossil fuel reserves into the atmosphere simply doesn't seem very sensible given what we know about global warming. I wouldn't be supportive of companies fracking within Calderdale.'

Cllr Burton Lab did not respond.
Cllr Evans Lib Dem responded, 'To the best of my knowledge, no company is planning to carry out fracking in our area and no licences have been granted. I will check with the relevant officers, just to make sure.
Personally I would have a number of serious concerns if a company wanted to either conduct tests or actually start fracking operations in Calderdale, including over any possible water pollution, seismic disturbance and how the waste water is disposed of. As I said earlier, I know of no plans for fracking in Calderdale, but should a company apply in the future you may wish to visit planning portal on our website to make your views known or find out more information.
As a Liberal Democrat, I want the Government to focus on renewable energy sources and I am pleased to be re-assured that this is a key Lib Dem priority nationally. I support the calls by Liberal Democrats for the Government to deliver enough renewable generation capacity to source 30 per cent of the UK's electricity from renewables by 2020. I am also keen that we do more to encourage energy efficiency so we reduce the need to use fossil fuels like oil and gas. If you haven't done so already, you may want to look at the Energy Saving Trust website for useful information and tips on how to make your home more energy efficient.'

The 2 local MPs were also asked the same questions but only Craig Whittaker Tory Calder Valley has so far responded, 'Please find my reply to your questionnaire;

1) Yes
2) That would depend on where and how it conforms with and to planning policy - I will judge any application (if indeed there are any) on its individual merits and conformity on planning conditions

Calderdale Green Party does accept that the summer holidays and/or illness may have kept the number of responses low, but then some councillors may have decided not to respond.

The questionnaire was sent to Councillors on the 9th August 2013.

From Paul Clarke

Saturday, 14 September 2013

This thread is actually in itself misleading because it should read: 'did your councillor reply to the fracking questionnaire that is designed to generate cheap publicity for a minority party so we can get an MEP in the 2014 elections.'

Not surprising as if we cast our mind back to the 2010 General Election the Greens in Calder Valley came a humiliating fourth with a pathetic share of the votes.

I was actually surprised so many cllrs replied to a questionnaire about a hypothetical planning application. On the whole their responses were clear and/or considered.

So I thought I'll have a look at what the Calderdale Green cllrs had to say on this issue. I read down the list and then I remembered I couldn't as there are NO Green Cllrs on Calderdale. People simply don't take this pressure group seriously enough locally to elect them.

Even in Calder - where you might expect them to have made a breakthrough - they consistently come last.

The simple fact is that if a fracking application ever comes forward then it will be serious parties who actually have cllrs that will oppose it.

From Graham Barker

Sunday, 15 September 2013

As someone who has voted Green I'm unimpressed by the energy the Greens waste whipping themselves into a lather about fracking. Charles' questionnaire misses the point. It isn't the technology that's the problem. Fracking is well proven (including in the UK) and safe if best practice is observed by the industry, which in the UK it appears to have been up to now.

The real problem is the risk that if shale oil and gas does prove plentiful in the UK, cowboy extraction companies will be allowed to ride roughshod over everything and everyone in pursuit of profit, with the blessing of government because it's 'in the national interest'. In that context it will be important to challenge politicians not on what they think about fracking, but on their readiness to insist on the best balance always being struck between economic, environmental and community interests.

In practice that means judging applications case by case. No viable sites have yet been identified in Calderdale, and may never be. I therefore agree with Paul that the quality of response Charles has received so far is pretty good going when 'We can't know until it happens' is the only realistic answer councillors can give. Maybe Charles should accept that he's had a good run for his stamp money, and stop while he's ahead.