Over the last few years, there has been a great deal of debate about the extraction of shale gas via hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it’s commonly known.
Many people have expressed quite understandable concerns about the environmental impact of this process. A couple of years ago, I made it clear to ministers that I would not support fracking in Hampshire if it endangered our water supply.
Since then, I have conducted a considerable amount of research and many of my fears have been reduced. My remaining concerns now centre on two issues: the integrity of well casings and therefore the inspection regime around them, and the disposal of waste water produced by the fracking process. I continue to seek information on these issues that are really about safeguarding the drinking water supply.
But there is no doubt that fracking could be of great benefit to the country. The Government is very aware of its potential to lower energy bills, but not at any cost to the environment. To help address concerns while making the technology practical, the recently passed Infrastructure Bill has changed the rules of trespass to allow energy companies the same rights as utility companies when operating under private land in an attempt to make the whole process actually work.
There has been opposition to this but it seems to me that if fracking pipes have to be moved sideward to extract gas then it seems reasonable and practicable that there is legislation that allows it, particularly in such a crowded island. The proposals will only allow access to underground land below 300m (nearly 1000ft) and any hydraulic fracturing would actually only occur at far greater depths of 1.5 kilometres (around 5000ft) or more.
What was largely missed by the media were the added protections in the final bill, which go a long way to satisfy me about the safety of this process. Energy companies will now have to carry out an environmental impact assessment prior to being granted permission to drill and rigorous, independent inspections and monitoring will be carried out. Importantly, the bill also forbids fracking directly inside in some sensitive environmental areas like national parks, although fracking can take place underneath such places, if it started outside the boundary.
Does all this mean we are now ready to ‘frack’? No, but it shows that a thorough regulatory framework is slowly being constructed.
150 fines issued in first month of litter campaign
More than 150 fines for littering have been issued around the district in the first month of a campaign from East Hampshire District Council. Since Monday 18 May EHDC’s Litter Enforcement Officers have been issuing £75 fines for dropping litter such as cigarette butts and chewing gum.
Cllr Richard Millard says the amount of fines issued over the first few weeks hows how seriously East Hampshire District Council is taking littering. “Littering is an issue that many people in the district feel very strongly about,” he said. “The council spends tens of thousands of pounds a year picking up carelessly discarded litter – that money could be put to much better use. We want to drive the message home that dropping any kind of litter, including cigarette butts or chewing gum, could lead to a £75 fine.”
The campaign is being run across the district but officers are focusing on the worst affected areas, such as town and village centres. Residents who would like to report a litter ‘hot spot’ to the council can call the litter line on 01730 234131 and officers will visit that area.
The scheme is being enforced by uniformed officers from Kingdom Security Ltd who carry EHDC livery and official ID. The six month pilot has been launched to reduce litter in the district and there is no expectation it will generate a profit. Any surplus money generated will be put towards environmental improvements based on information gathered during the scheme, for example where new litter bins should be located.
The Community Forum meetings are public meetings and everyone is welcome. Currently chaired by Cllr Sara Schillemore the next one is at Horndean Technology College, Barton Cross in Horndean PO8 9PQ on Monday 13th July 2015 from 6:30pm.
The key topics are Littering, Fly Tipping and Planning Enforcement.
Over the last months (in particular) litter has been a major nuisance in the community and David Fitzgerald, our Principal Environmental Health officer with Natalie Meagher the responsible Service Manager will present how EHDC are tacking the issue and public questions will be invited.
On Planning Enforcement we are currently seeing serious issues with a development on White Dirt Lane and also the Gales Brewery development where the car park has not been built in accordance with the approved plans. Lesley Wells, the Planning and Compliance Manager, will be outlining how EHDC approached planning enforcement locally and again, public questions will be invited.
These two topics are a focal point for many of the emails local District Councillors receive so at this meeting there is a great opportunity to hear first hand how EHDC are tacking the issues. Please do come along.
What happens if a developer doesn’t stick to the plan? How can you keep a noisy neighbour quiet? Why should litter louts be on the look-out? All these questions and more will be answered as the next Community Forum in Horndean looks into how East Hampshire District Council enforces the law.
Planning Compliance & Trees Manager, Lesley Wells, said: “People think the planning process ends once the planning permission is given, but what happens if a developer doesn’t follow the plan and starts making a few unapproved amendments or alterations? That’s when EHDC may step in and take action. This may include requesting a revised planning application, requiring the development to be built as per the approved plans or stopping the development straight away, until the matter is resolved. People can help us keep developers on track. The general public are our eyes and ears and many of the cases we follow up have been brought to us by alert residents.”
Also to be discussed at the meeting will be EHDC’s litter enforcement which sees residents fined £75 for dropping litter or £50 for letting their dog foul. Find out the reasons behind the new scheme and how residents can ask for wardens to attend litter hotspots in their area. Environmental Health Manager David Fitzgerald will also reveal how the council tackles noise or environmental pollution, whether it is a disruptive neighbour or an unscrupulous business.
EHDC have launched their new website which is modern and much more accessible. The team have carefully designed the layout so it is easy to navigate and not ‘gimicky’.
The home page gives options for Planning, Your Councillors, Bin Collections, Interactive Map, Stay Connected and Council Tax. There are also direct links for planning applications, enforcement and other very well used services.
Click on the link for ‘Interactive Map’ and enter your postcode to get a raft of information including contact details for doctors, dentists, planning applications, your Councillor and MP, Tree Preservation Order details, Environmental issues, bin collection including calendars and more. there are also three tabs on this page that take you to more information on local services and maps for planning etc.
The link for ‘Search for and comment on planning applications’ is now on the home page and takes you directly to the planning portal. A big improvement for accessing key local information.
The new site is packed with information and with your postcode will filter information that is relevant to you. You can also subscribe to information alerts and adjust the settings to keep you informed about what you are interested in.
"The Budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome will become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance." - Cicero, 55 BC