Kevin Barron has broken his 3 month public silence on the topic of fracking locally, citing a series of actions which only focus on finding and sharing information on the subject. The Woodsetts Against Fracking (WAF) action group rejects his commentary as ignoring his constituents’ legitimate concerns since they believe they will have no impact on stopping fracking. WAF demand a proactive and targeted response from their local MP. In the last week around 600 residents have signed a petition to Jeremy Corbyn calling for Sir Kevin to be brought in line with current Labour policy and block the local planning applications, and drive the issue at a national level.
In response to Kevin Barron’s public statement on 3/11/17, the WAF Group have issued an open letter to Sir Kevin, questioning his commitment against fracking:
We do not see any evidence of him raising the topic of fracking in Government since the announcement of local plans, and call out his voting record has to either be absent or abstaining from votes on fracking environmental safeguards, or to vote against additional regulation of fracking companies.
He wishes that his constituents stop attending future surgeries to discuss fracking, which WAF rejects and view as continuing to ignore constituents’ legitimate concerns.
He states he will continue to facilitate meetings so that residents can be fully informed of the most recent research on the issue – WAF believe this is not needed, since we are fully aware and 90% of residents are already against fracking.
He will be spending time with the Coal Authority – WAF believe this is continued wasted effort since this body only has responsibility for legacy mineworkings, and no influence over future mineral extraction.
The WAF are requesting a private meeting with Sir Kevin to agree on the direct activities he will undertake targeted at stopping fracking in his constituency.
FULL LETTER SHOWN BELOW
Dear Sir Kevin,
This open letter is issued from the Woodsetts Against Fracking (WAF) committee in response to the letter with your thoughts on fracking to specific residents, and published on your website 3rd November 2017.
Clearly you acknowledge the worry that residents are suffering and comment that the Government is ignoring people's legitimate concerns. We put it to you that you appear to be ignoring your constituents’ legitimate concerns and that whilst you may actually believe you are supporting us, we want to be absolutely clear that we do not consider you are.
Giving the community the assurance that you will continue to monitor developments is not the proactive and targeted response we expect to see from you. Taking each of the activities that you call out in your letter in turn, we will explain why we believe these to be inadequate:
You state that you will continue to facilitate meetings between residents' representatives and agencies, so that residents can be fully informed of the most recent research on fracking. In a survey of Woodsetts residents we concluded that 1% were in support of it, which is significantly lower than the recent survey by the Business and Energy Department report which showed 16% of the UK population are supportive. We question what outcome are you hoping to achieve from making sure we are fully informed, is it to change our minds? If not then perhaps this is wasted effort that could be spent trying to stop INEOS.
You have a meeting arranged between campaign groups and the Coal Authority to explain their regulatory position. The Coal Authority is a legacy of British Coal with the stated purpose of managing “the effects of past coal mining, including subsidence damage claims which are not the responsibility of licensed coal mine operators”. It deals with mine water pollution and other legacy mining issues and has no regulatory position over further mineral extraction. Therefore, what is the objective of meeting with the Coal Authority in relation to stopping fracking?
You say you will continue to press the Government to listen to genuine and widely held concerns about fracking. Could you please specifically share with us the dates and nature of challenge that you have put forwards, since we have not seen any evidence of this and can only assume it has not happened?
You describe your indignation at the way in which INEOS had communicated with us initially and call out their pledge that this kind of incident will never happen again. WAF representatives in your surgery 27th October informed you that they have repeated this incident. The recently updated injunction notices posted by INEOS were the notification to the village of the formal planning application date. Despite having open communications lines between the WAF-run INEOS Community Liaison Group, we were not informed of this in advance. Due to this and other significant communication failures on their part, this has led to the cessation of all formal communication between INEOS and the WAF INEOS Community Liaison Group.
Whilst not pertinent to the current concerns, in your letter you draw attention to the fact that during the last Parliament the Opposition tabled an amendment to the 2015 Infrastructure Bill that would have ensured that fracking could not take place until 13 environmental safeguards were in place. Assuming that these amendments are the two that were voted for on the 26th January 2015, we are extremely surprised you should draw attention to these since the public records clearly show the following:
You abstained from the vote on New Clause 1 of the Infrastructure Bill - Environmental Permits for Hydraulic Fracturing Activities
You were absent from the vote on New Clause 9 of the Infrastructure Bill - Moratorium on Onshore Unconventional Petroleum — Review Impacts of Exploitation
There were a further two fracking bills on which you chose to vote, but clearly took a pro-fracking stance. On 11th Feb 2015 you voted against requiring a more extensive set of conditions be met prior to consent for hydraulic fracturing being given. On 16th Dec 2015 you voted against greater restrictions on fracking in National Parks, the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage sites, and near points where water is abstracted for domestic and food production purposes. Can you please explain the difference between your previous voting history and your current stance of disagreeing with INEOS’ plans?
Turning briefly to the subject of your surgeries, we have had a few WAF committee members attend the last two. We assume that you have had other residents attend to discuss this topic, however to suggest that your own constituents who are concerned over fracking are not allowed to attend is considered preposterous. Whilst you might find the topic tedious, to state that people are intimidated about coming to the surgeries due to worries about crowds of people being there we believe appears ludicrous. We will continue to encourage our local residents to share their concerns with you.
Many of our members have been trying to get a formal response from you for months, and a number of our committee have discussed your lack of action directly with you. In the absence of any tangible progress, on 28th October we opened an on-line petition to Jeremy Corbyn requesting that you be brought in line with current Labour policy in order to block the local planning applications, and drive the anti-fracking agenda at a national level. In the last week we have received around 600 signatures, and in the absence of a positive change of position from you, this will be driven by WAF to completion.
With the aim to stop people attending your surgeries you call out a desire to arrange a separate community meeting through the representatives of the campaign groups. In advance of that, we believe we need a private meeting between yourself and the WAF committee to position how that community meeting will be handled and to agree on the direct activities you will be undertaking targeted at stopping fracking in your constituency. We believe it should not be a platform to pacify the community with the activities you are undertaking noted above, which we consider misdirected. Please advise when you would be free to attend a closed WAF committee meeting and we will accommodate your schedule.
To simplify the questions we would like to have responses on, these are re-stated here:
Q1. What outcome are you hoping to achieve from making sure we are fully informed, since we have already decided we do not want fracking?
Q2. What is the objective of meeting with the Coal Authority in relation to stopping fracking?
Q3. Please share the specific dates and details you have put forward to the Government about the widely held concerns about fracking, since the announcement of plans for this region?
Q4. Can you please explain the difference between your previous voting history and your current stance of disagreeing with INEOS’ plans?
Q5. When you would be available for a private meeting with the WAF Committee in advance of a Woodsetts community meeting.
We look forward to your considered response.
Woodsetts Against Fracking Representatives