History was made in Falkirk on 19th August with the signing of the new Community Charter, created by local residents to protect their environment. All 13 SNP Councillors have adopted the Community Charter.
They join Larbert, Stenhousemuir and Torwood Community Council, the group CCoF (Concerned Communities of Falkirk) and a growing number of local residents and farmers who all support the UK’s first ever Community Charter.
Residents had already handed over the Charter to MSP Angus MacDonald for delivery to Scottish ministers..
Resident Alison Doyle said: ‘
We are delighted that councillors have recognised the Charter as direct expression of the values and aspirations of their electorate, and fully welcome their adoption and support’.”
SNP Councillor Steven Carleschi said,
”The Charter was produced in response to Australian firm Dart Energy’s application to extract coal bed methane commercially in the Forth Valley between Falkirk and Stirling, an area of old coal mines.
The local community seeks protection from what many people consider a destructive, risky development close to homes, with boreholes even running under some houses. Farmland, green-belt and wildlife conservation areas would all be threatened. The Charter sets out a clear vision of what the community values and wants to safeguard. Over 2500 formal objections were lodged in relation to Dart’s application.”
In response to Dart Energy’s clear discomfort with residents’ objections, Vivien Murchison, who lives locally, said
: ‘Myself and the many other residents who contributed to the Charter, discovered that Unconventional Gas drilling has been going on largely unmonitored on our door-steps for 20 years, and is about to scale-up considerably, while evidence from other countries shows it may cause significant health problems. What’s unusual about a community coming together to safeguard their families, and what they value, from suspected risk?
Local resident Dr Mark Williams added:
“Dart’s latest documents and rebuttals have done little to allay our concerns. If anything, they have introduced new ones. With relevant research emerging all the time, and as we build our scientific knowledge, our case grows stronger every day.’
Both Dart’s application and the community response could set a precedent. Vast swathes of British countryside – including much of Scotland’s Central Belt – are being considered for various forms of Unconventional Gas development, including Coal Bed methane extraction, Shale Gas extraction, and Underground Coal Gasification.
There has been widespread opposition to such developments, including in Balcombe, Sussex, where protests have been receiving national coverage.
Created through public meetings, with support from lawyers and consultants, the Falkirk Charter maps tangible and intangible ‘assets’, including public and environmental health, which local people consider essential to their present and future well-being.
It also sets out community rights and responsibilities to protect these ‘assets’, such as meaningful participation by residents in planning processes.
Convenor of Larbert, Stenhousemuir and Torwood Community Council, Eric Appelbe, said: ‘
The Charter lends further weight to the Community Council’s representations given the background of concern from the community, as well as the identified potential impact on environmental and public health assets. We are pleased to have had some input and wish to be associated with its terms.’
The Charter is not a legal document, but the intention is to give it legal effect through the planning process. Drawing inspiration from Community Bills of Rights in the USA – often a community response to unwelcome UG developments – the Charter also refers to the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, which recognises the importance of ‘cultural heritage’ in a broad sense. This ground-breaking document is a direct expression of community opposition to risky developments. Seven Community Councils officially oppose Dart’s application.
Dart Energy lodged an appeal with the Scottish Government while Falkirk and Stirling Councils were still considering the application. Falkirk Council’s Planning Committee called for a Public Inquiry. Larbert, Stenhousemuir and Torwood Community Council and local residents joined that call in a letter submitted with the Charter, which itself declares the community’s rights to have its voice heard. An official Inquiry is now going to be held.
The Community group, Concerned Communities of Falkirk, which helped to create the Charter, has a website, http://www.faug.org.uk/ . The Charter itself is at: http://www.faug.org.uk/community_charter.pdf
· FAUG website: http://www.faug.org.uk/
· Link to Community Mandate: http://www.faug.org.uk/sites/default/files/Community%20Mandate%20v10.0.pdf
· Ric Lander, “After 160 years Central Scotland has had enough”, Bright Green Scotland, June 23 2013: http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2013/06/fracking-after-160-years-central-scotland-has-had-enough
· Professor Andrew Watterson, – “Unconventional Gas Extraction and Public Health”, The Herald, 3 June 2013. http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/columnists/agenda-unconventional-gas-extraction-and-public-health.21173277
· Dr Morag Parnell and Jamie McKenzie Hamilton, “Potential Public Health risks associated with (Dart) Application P/12/0521/FUL”, 30 April 2013:
· Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith, “Living in a Pollution-Free World is a Basic Human Right”, National Toxics Network, 20 May 2012: