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« One extreme to another | Main | Ridley et al on shale »

Red tape as a weapon


Friends of the Earth has written to West Sussex County Council following concerns that fracking firm Cuadrilla may be drilling near Balcombe in breach of its existing planning permission, the environment charity said today (Thursday 5 September 2013).

Barton Moss

An environmental group has written to Salford City Council over concerns the exploratory drilling of a site may be in breach of planning permission. 

Energy company IGas has permission to start drilling to see what type of gas or oil can be found at Barton Moss.

Friends of the Earth said no environmental impact assessment (EIA) had taken place and permission did not allow for shale gas exploration.

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Reader Comments (36)

That's strange. Wind turbine owners invariably operate in breach of their planning permission. I've never seen FoE writing to them. LPAs employ enforcement officers to ensure that planning consents are not breached. But being local government employees, they cannot be relied upon to do their jobs properly.

Nov 27, 2013 at 9:18 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I hope they get a dusty answer from the Councils. Cuadrilla, in particular, are very unlikely to have skipped their homework.

"Delay is the deadliest form of denial" - C Northcote Parkinson

Nov 27, 2013 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Nov 27, 2013 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

"Our project at Barton

We are the operator and sole owner of the Petroleum and Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) 193 which includes our site at Barton. In June 2010, our planning application to explore for and extract hydrocarbons at the Barton site in Irlam was approved by Salford City Council following a detailed planning process.

The process involved undertaking detailed consultation with the local community as well as satisfying the Council and planning officers that we are a safe and transparent operator and able to conduct our work in an environmentally respectful manner"

Nov 27, 2013 at 9:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

Friend or FOE?
FoE are certainly not friends of Humanity.

Nov 27, 2013 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Why have they charitable status when they are clearly a political group?

Nov 27, 2013 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

Mendacious FUD wibbling is about par for the course for FoE. It is I think as much for internal consumption and steeling the inhabitants of the camp as for public consumption. Painting the enemy as morally reprehensible, trying to circumvent the rules attempts to sow doubt about the honesty and integrity of IGas.

The imposition of an EIA on the applicant is a matter that is at the discretion of the planning authority - FoE are deliberately barking up the wrong tree - ably assisted by the state broadcaster - for shame.

Nov 27, 2013 at 10:19 AM | Registered Commentertomo

It seems to be a typical tactic that many drillers face these days - you spend years jumping through hoops and complying with all the environmental demands at great costs.

Finally, all your ducks are in a row, and you proceed to the next step - only to be hit by a barrage of press releases and protests from the very environmentalists who you thought you had placated with extreme compliance to what they originally demanded.

Nov 27, 2013 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown


during the Brent Spar fiasco I kept saying that Shell should've given Greenpeace the Spar with the proviso that Greenpiece were to dispose of it in the best way possible and that Shell would pick up the tab - I still think that'd have been fun to watch.

Having waded through other FoE spewings in the last several months my estimation of their honesty, integrity and motivation has plummeted below even my own very low initial expectations - they are truly awful when you line all their ducks up - what a shower.

Nov 27, 2013 at 11:04 AM | Registered Commentertomo


Why have they charitable status when they are clearly a political group?

No, I'm not clear where the boundary lies either but many 'environmental charities' do seem to have crossed it some time ago.

Another problem seems to be that of them getting together and funding a more overtly political offshoot thereby keeping their own hands clean. We have seen this kind of thing operating behind the scenes with the BBC and at EU level as just two examples. The overall strategy seems to be the use of 'alternative avenues' to get what they could never achieve at the ballot box while maintaining their public 'save a whale' face while raising funds.

" But what also stunned Members State environmental ministers, such as our own Owen Paterson, was the degree of access given to the EEB. At a recent meeting of the Environmental Council, chaired by the Lithuanian presidency, they were surprised to see EEB secretary general, Jeremy Wates, at the venue.

To their puzzlement, not only did Wates sit through the entire ministerial discussions - a privilege normally reserved only to senior ministerial aides and Council officials - he was allowed to address the Council at the end of the meeting. It was at that point that he was given free rein to deliver undiluted Green propaganda against shale gas and oil, with absolutely no attempt made by Council officials to ensure balance - or even technical accuracy."

Nov 27, 2013 at 11:09 AM | Registered Commenterbh3x2

I really thought the Brent Spar campaign would have exposed Greenpeace for the bunch of unprincipled chancers that they are, (after all, they even admitted they were wrong) but people seem to have short memories and the media don't seem very interested in reminding us.

Nov 27, 2013 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown


entirely so - Green agitators and advocates come in via another door and it's long past time the bouncers bounced. I'm still astonished that many months of diligent evidence gathering can be trumped by social / religious connections in public decision taking.

The Greens have managed to insert themselves as "moral guardians" with universal mandate it seems... bit like elfs in safertrees in industry in a way - evidenced justification for their assertions being way down the list...

Nov 27, 2013 at 11:21 AM | Registered Commentertomo


nah - the media were in "give nasty Shell a kicking" mode - poor starving little things camped out on a hulk with no loo paper being fire hosed .... If you remember the German anti Shell campaign was particularly successful and caused Shell fuel retail considerable trouble.

They should've been a bit more imaginative ;-)

Nov 27, 2013 at 11:27 AM | Registered Commentertomo

It does make me laugh a bit. Shell are by far the biggest PITA to work for because of their extensive and detailed rules and procedures to do with everything from environment to safety to anti-bribery etc. Always have been, long before Brent Spar or anything else. BP weren't far behind. They bust everyone's arse trying to keep these standards up even in the most corrupt and chaotic countries.

They get the biggest kicking from the media and activists because they are seen as a "soft" target, and everyone naturally thinks that must be because they're the worst.

Does make me chuckle , but they'd be as well just to tell them all to get stuffed. It could hardly be any worse for them.

Nov 27, 2013 at 11:39 AM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown


yup - not got a Shell/BP hard hat in the recent collection - but I do know what you're talking about. Culturally I've found the two quite different but similarly hidebound by their bureaucracy and tortured procedures - it's not unheard of them shooting themselves in the foot as a result usually of rather "mixed" management skills. Shell's HSE is legendary :-)

Many advocates need a bogey man to make their case. The "no comment" school of PR does have it's adherents but the results are mixed as Rolls Royce might be able to tell you.... if you could get them to comment on say plumbing fittings.

Nov 27, 2013 at 11:59 AM | Registered Commentertomo

With any luck we will have a vicious winter and the protesters will be begging for fossil fuel heating.

Nov 27, 2013 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Yep, the draft blueprint for a bunch of activist groups to try to close down the coal industry in Australia had legal obstruction as a major plank in their strategy. They have industry so hogtied with environmental approvals that companies now need local, State and Federal government approval to turn the first sod. The scope for appealing against approvals at each of these levels adds millions to the cost of mining projects (assuming they eventually get approval) and can stretch out the process for years.

It's an utterly pernicious tactic and governments everywhere have caved in to greenie pressure to load resource companies up with greentape. In Australia we have the added hazard of "sacred Aboriginal sites", which often conveniently appear whenever a big project is mooted. The green groups are at the forefront of stirring up Aboriginal communities against projects that might provide them with much needed employment.

The bottom line is, they will stop at nothing to prevent any and all resource extraction on principle and irrespective of the merits.

Nov 27, 2013 at 12:14 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

@what a shower.

Nov 27, 2013 at 11:04 AM | tomo

I wasn't aware that they actually do have showers?


Nov 27, 2013 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterPM Walsh

Friends of the Dearth seem to be extremely vigilant in ensuring that other people comply with the exact letter of the law – a policy which they have demonstrated they are only too willing to flaunt when it comes to their own behaviour.

Nov 27, 2013 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterScottie

"Five protesters from Frack Free Greater Manchester are living in tents at the site and say residents support them. Other campaigners are expected to join on Saturday."

Don't imagine the protest will last very long, Barton Moss is very wet and cold and it's nearly December!

Nov 27, 2013 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered Commentermeltemian

I have to say I think it is deeply ironic that Cuadrilla Resources has chosen none other than Lord Browne (ex CEO of BP) as their Chairman.

It is notable that it was on his watch at BP that (a) they went in for GreenWash to an unprecedented degree, hosing money to the greenies and pretending to be much more interested in being fluffy and cuddly than in producing energy, and (b) that BP's safety record took a bit of a nose dive.

Is it recorded whether he went through a Damascene conversion, is he still a keen greenie at heart or is it all just unbridled opportunism?

If you want to know whether his greenie fondling has done him much good, just Google "Lord Browne Cuadrilla" for an avalanche of spittle-flecked nonsense from all the usual suspects.

Nov 27, 2013 at 1:03 PM | Unregistered Commentermartin brumby

@PM Walsh

yeah... :-)

Nov 27, 2013 at 1:18 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Pedant alert!
The word is flout. One of my personal bugbears, I'm afraid, along with confusing 'haggle' with 'barter'.
'Flaunt' is to show off; 'flout' is to make a point of disobeying!
Sorry about that. :-)

I thought all the residents of Barton Moss would be in hibernation by now, apart from the odd rabbit.

Nov 27, 2013 at 2:11 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

The scope for appealing against approvals at each of these levels adds millions to the cost of mining projects (assuming they eventually get approval) and can stretch out the process for years.

And then, if you do get past all that, the protesters and blockades turn up at the last minute.
Perhaps most frustrating I can recall was the James Price Point campaign, in which activists flew in from all over Australia to "support" indigenous people in "their" opposition to the LNG plant.

Except, inconveniently, a significant number of local indigenous and other people said they wanted the plant and the employment and other benefits it would bring. This led to a rather incredible and nasty backlash from the Greenies, some of them accusing the Kimberley people of not being true Aboriginals etc.
Check this out:

Anyway, upshot was that Woodside pulled out and decided to spend mega-millions building a floating LNG plant in Korea instead. So instead of employing hundreds of shore-based workers in the Kimberley it will be run by people flying in and out on helicopters (what a great Green outcome!) from who knows where and there'll be no construction jobs in Australia for the plant.

Nov 27, 2013 at 2:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown


right bunch of little charmers the WA-gweenies aren't they?

bludgers and liars? if only one politician came out and said something similar in the UK it'd make a refreshing change Come to that... we know FoE are liars - has anybody done a funding investigation of the Mancunian happy campers - I doubt they're all trustafarians or errant spawn of rock royalty.

Nov 27, 2013 at 6:11 PM | Registered Commentertomo

This particular anti-fracking group has found the Grantham Institute and believes they are promoting fracking:
"When is a group of leading climate change researchers not a group of leading climate change researchers? When they are a actually bunch of economists paid by a multi-millionaire investment strategist to promote fracking, of course."

They have a lot more about Jeremy Grantham than I had found, well worth a read for all the information. Lord Browne just happens to be on the Grantham Advisory Board, as is Sir Evelyn Rothschild. Browne is also on the LSE "Growth Commission" with Stern. He also happens to be on the Deutsche Bank Climate Advisory Board with Oxburgh and until recently, Pachauri.

Browne said this in 2008, in a Times interview.

Lord Browne, said that he strongly supported the call by Lord Turner of Ecchinswell for Britain to slash its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. To get there will require an all-encompassing approach, “taking energy out of our lifestyles, through a revolution in energy efficiency, and taking carbon out of energy, through fundamentally changing the energy mix we use in favour of low-carbon technologies. To achieve both will require a basket of fiscal and regulatory policies and public education.”

Lord Browne also said that Britain was leading the world in its understanding of the science and economics of climate change. He said that the work of Sir David King, Lord Stern and others had led to the formation of a clear blueprint for the steps that the world needs to take to tackle climate change."

Nov 27, 2013 at 6:38 PM | Registered Commenterdennisa

And skeptics and other rationalists should sit back politiely and quietly and let the AGW extremists and the fracking kooks go at it.

Nov 27, 2013 at 11:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

"dear local paper/radio phone-in..I have it on good authority that Friends of the Subsidy grabbers have objected to local green project on grounds that the law X, Y, Z was broken....."
- "no no no we didn't object !"
- "well, why not ?"

Nov 27, 2013 at 11:43 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Nov 27, 2013 at 11:09 AM | Registered Commenterbh3x2
Can we assume that you are familiar with the danger of the UN idea that was called ICLEI before morphing to "Local Councils for Sustainability" or the like? It's global, with some variations between countries. I simply do not know if it was involved in your example.
The ICLEI process seems to get Councils hooked on some sort of dependency or favour or even the old age of "We're here to help". Then the sharp hooks go in, with unelected reps seeking to participate in decision making. Less experienced Council staff can be so innocent as to swallow the propaganda that ICLEI is good for them, and not even question if they are off course.
ICLEI is one of the more dangerous movements I have seen in recent decades.

Nov 28, 2013 at 1:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

Questions are raised about FoE and charitable status.

It used to be the case there there were two FoE with the difference wilfully blurred.

One was a private company run for the profit of whoever. The other was a charity primary supplying material into schools.

As I recall but not the details the Blair government changed the existing limp charity rules to allow charities to play politics.

Today, well, worth finding out the whole situation. Here is a start

Registered Number Charity name
And 281681 which you can access, not that it says a lot.


Name & Registered Office:
N1 7JQ
Company No. 01012357

Status: Active
Date of Incorporation: 26/05/1971

Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Company Type: PRI/LTD BY GUAR/NSC (Private, limited by guarantee, no share capital)
Nature of Business (SIC):
94990 - Activities of other membership organizations not elsewhere classified

Name & Registered Office:
N1 7JQ
Company No. 01533942

Status: Active
Date of Incorporation: 10/12/1980

Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Company Type: PRI/LTD BY GUAR/NSC (Private, limited by guarantee, no share capital)
Nature of Business (SIC):
94990 - Activities of other membership organizations not elsewhere classified

Previous Names:
Date of change Previous Name

My word, this seems public access

Other one seems to be there if you search.

Nov 28, 2013 at 2:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterTim Channon

Martin Brumby

I think Browne is chairman because he is involved with Riverstone who own a big stake in Cuadrilla. Don't mistake Browne for an ideologue though. His every word and every move are calculated to advance his own interests.

Nov 28, 2013 at 7:18 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Where is Putin when you need him?

Nov 28, 2013 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Where is Putin when you need him?

Putin is a Greenpeace supporter as long as they are blocking progress in other countries.
Not so much when they try it in Russia.

The last thing he wants is anything that might reduce dependence on, or the market value of, Russian gas.

Nov 28, 2013 at 2:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

Kelly is right - it's not so much a matter of when you need him, as when he needs you.

I notice the last Greenpeace protestor has finally been granted bail, after 71 days in prison. I wonder how many recruits they will get on their next mission to Save the Arctic?

Bish, maybe a summary of events on this would be worth a post?

Nov 28, 2013 at 4:27 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Bish, maybe a summary of events on this would be worth a post?

Maybe, but it's a sideshow. The intention of such stunts is not to "save the Arctic" (from what? Arctic drilling has been going on for decades) but to stimulate donations to Greenpeace.

I do not wish Russian "justice" on anyone, but how would you look at it if you were working on the Prirazlomnaya ,where even as an employee, you need a shitload of permits and permissions before being allowed on the rig, and any random bunch with protest banners is allowed to board?

Nov 28, 2013 at 9:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

One way to get things moving? (copied at Unthreaded)

The government often makes enthusiastic noises about shale but the process is inching forward at a snail's pace, dogged by planning issues, protests, etc..

If the government really wants to help, why not invite exploration on government land?

Given the huge number and size of all the Army ranges, naval yards, airfields, storage depots etc there must be some which are in good shale prospecting areas.
I am guessing now but planning issues may be straightforward - a few rigs are not going to be noticed in amongst thundering tanks or roaring jets. Do normal planning rules even apply?
There would not be any close neighbours. Access would be easy. Security would be guaranteed (I expect a bunch of squaddies would love Frackoff to try a break-in). Useful infrastructure could be available such as power supplies and large ponds and tanks (firefighting reserves).

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea.
If gas was found, the MOD could gain its own supply and/or generate its own power.

What's not to like?

I wonder just how fast Cuadrilla or one of the other outfits could mobilise a rig?

Dec 4, 2013 at 2:53 PM | Registered Commentermikeh

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