for Sunday Herald, 25 January 2015
The whole process has been “deeply flawed” and government assurances have turned out to be “meaningless”, they claim. A formal complaint against the planning authority, Dumfries and Galloway Council, is under investigation by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
Planning permissions for 18 boreholes and a gas plant to extract coalbed methane around Canonbie were granted by the council in 2009 and 2010, then renewed in 2011 and 2013. This all happened with virtually no public scrutiny, and decisions were taken by officials rather than councillors.
According to critics, the applications managed to slip under the radar because they were treated as individual small developments, rather than being considered together as a major development. Developers have often been accused of splitting potentially controversial projects into more acceptable bite-sized chunks, a tactic known as “salami-slicing”.
The applications were made by a gas company working in conjunction with Buccleuch, who owns vast tracts of land in the area. They are keen to exploit what they say is “a significant national resource”, but have not yet begun major works.