Thursday, 26 September 2013

Shepherdswell People Power

Last night I went to  a public meeting at  Shepherdswell  Parish Hall to discuss a planning application for exploratory drilling for shale and coal  bed  methane gas just outside the village. I was amazed how many people were there. By my estimation about 200. It was standing room only and the back doors had to be opened to let in fresh air and provide more standing  room. The meeting was organised by the Campaign to Protect Rural England - a big thank you to CPRE for doing something which KCC and the Environment Agency should have done weeks ago!

CPRE Hydrologist, Graham Warren, explained how exploring for, or extracting,  gas  from the former East Kent  coalfield area was fraught with  risk, especially the  danger of polluting the East Kent chalk aquifer which provides water for tens-of-thousands of homes in Kent. He talked about the danger of atmospheric pollution from the drilling operation and the problems associated with disposing of  hundreds of thousands of gallons of polluted water which will be brought to the surface by drilling. He then explained that the gas bearing seams are located in an area of geological faults caused by seismic activity. He said it was not a clever idea to drill thousands of metres below the ground in such an area  as  it might well lead to fresh seismic events.

I must say, that whenever I have previously been to complex scientific or technical presentations  I, and others in the audience, have nodded off, begun to doodle on our notepads, started to daydream, raised eyebrows and indicated boredom to our neighbours or all of the above. But not last night!   Mr Graham Warren  transfixed all 200 souls in that room. He was heard in riveted silence and I am sure that more once I heard collective intakes of breath when he described  some of the more awful consequences that might arise from the drilling.

So powerful was Mr Graham Warren's contribution that local Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke, did a rapid U-Turn on his position on unconventional gas exploration and extraction. less than a week ago in an interview on BBC Radio Kent Elphicke was extolling the virtues of fracking and accusing  CPRE as being muddled in their approach to unconventional gas extraction. But last night, after listening to Mr Warren he told the meeting that he was now totally opposed to uncovential gas extraction on his patch. 

But perhaps it was not entirely Mr Warren's powers  of persuasion that brought about this U-Turn, but rather  the result of Mr Elphicke asking for a show of hands for and against drilling in East Kent. When at least 95% of the audience raised their hands against drilling Mr Elphicke's fence sitting suddenly stopped. After all 2015 is not long way off!

But seriously, last night was one of the finest examples I had seen, in a long time, of a community getting its act together and influencing the decision makers. There is now a group in Shepherdswell campaigning to oppose the planning applications and last night membership of that group exploded as people queued up to give their contact details to the organisers. I hope that the people of Shepherdswell will inspire residents of  nearby Guston and Tilmanstone who face similar planning applications to begin to organise themselves as well. After seeing for myself a community in action I am convinced that drilling in East Kent will be defeated.


  1. Beware of 360 degree U turns - 180 would leave you facing the opposite direction, rather than coming full circle. Serious matter for all of us in this area. Glad to hear of an awakening to the facts.

  2. so we carry on paying loads of our hard earned cash to keep warm, and drive to work!...Perhaps we should all go to america where 'green' taxes are treated with just deserved contempt! Bring on fracking, far better than wind and solar farms, and making sure that 'poor people' can keep warm affordably

  3. Well said Ian and 95% opposition to fracking sounds about right - if not even higher!

    Few people realise the drilling is to then to set off explosive charges to release the gas/oil hence the danger of earthquakes and unexpected pollution.

    What about KIACC and the Manston pollution and TDC Airport Committee?

  4. What the hell is a Thanet councillor doing shouting his mouth off [again] on local tv on an issue in Shepherdswell?
    Maybe he realises that people in his own area are fed up to the teeth with his ranting?
    Maybe he should seek medical attention for this insatiable demand to be in the media?

    1. Thanet Green Councillor is concerned about fracking in whole of East Kent you can be sure

  5. Perhaps it might be because the chalk aquifer which sits beneath the drilling sites at Shepherdswell, Guston and Tilmanstone provides drinking water for the people of Thanet. As a local councillor in Thanet I should be speaking about this serious threat to our water supply and will be submitting objections to KCC. I am very grateful that you are thinking about my health as I am about yours by fighting to ensure that your drinking water does not become polluted.

  6. Ian. John Hamilton is rumoured to be the celebrity who will switch Thanet water abstraction back on. He will provide a photoshoot of himself quaffing down the first pint of adams ale to be drawn at Rumfields for twenty years.

    He will then proceed to MI5 to finally unveil his evidence that all the cyclohexanone that went walkies from Sericol ended up harmlessly in the chalk layers and hence aquifer. None was stolen JH knows this and will enveil his evidence. The tory cllr site safety engineer at Sericol did not obtain his engineering qualifications "Courtesy of Cyril". Jh will unveil a comprehensive protfolio including the details of a Cllr's Royal Marines Reserve Service, the validation of a former tory cllr's engineering qualies and a transcript of what two other tory cllrs said on oath at High Court 1998.

    He will unveil his Commons echelon evidence that Roger Gale MP never exercised any influence in getting the Sericol site safety engineer his job there and also at a time the tory "Engineer" got a Kent Police issued firearms certificate.

    And finally JH will argue that in Thanet tories they can indeed lay with Cyril dogs and not catch Cyril fleas.