The Australian company, Dart Energy, has been forced to postpone the start of commercial mining for coal bed methane around Airth this year because Falkirk and Stirling councils have repeatedly delayed their deadlines for taking a decision.
Until now, the delays have been agreed between the councils and the company. But in the last few weeks they have failed to reach an agreement on a new deadline, enabling Dart to appeal directly to Scottish ministers for a decision.
As many as 1,500 objections have now been lodged with the two councils against Dart’s plans. The company has applied for planning permission to sink 22 wells at 14 sites to extract up to 60 billion cubic feet of gas.
There are fears that gas could leak, water could be contaminated and public health put at risk. But the company insists that the process will be safe, and claims it has no plans to use the hotly disputed technology of fracking to get at the gas.