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Environmental Campaigners beg Dover District Council for protections

At 5pm on 19 Oct 2022, environmental campaigners representing Sandwich Environmental Conservation Group, East Kent Climate Action, Transition town Dover and East Kent Against Fracking gathered in front of DDC council chambers at Whitfield. Like many across England, they asked their local council to stand up with them against the betrayals by the central chaotic Conservative government.

The two environmental betrayals are the #AttackOnNature denounced by Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB  since 23rd Sept 2022 and the lifting of the Fracking moratorium announced by Liz Truss’s Business Minister the same week.  (There are many other betrayals relating to the crashing of the economy and sending cost of living crisis into overdrive).

DDC 19 Oct 2022

The campaigners’ action was in support of 2 questions from members of the public on the agenda. Pete Findley of Mongeham asked DDC cabinet for evidence that DDC were genuinely providing protections for wildlife habitats with the new Dover Local Plan due to go for its second public consultation between 21 October and 9 December. Sarah Waite-Gleave asked the DDC cabinet to renew their 2013 commitment to oppose fracking for shale or methane gas and the poisoning of the water table hydrologists / geologists consider is likely to accompany it in Kent’s fragile chalk aquifers. Both campaigners are community and Green party campaigners.

There was also a motion proposed by Labour opposition cllr Helen Williams tabled:

DDC completely oppose fracking in any land within our council area, and will oppose any planning application for this

Cllr Williams explained she brought the motion because of the possibility being put back on the 2022 agenda by Truss government.  She cited many risks that DDC Scrutiny committee registered in 2013,  including water issues in a water stressed area,  water contamination, noting that none of the risks had gone away.

The leader of the Labour opposition group cllr Mills seconded the motion stating, ‘on the issue this council has a long-standing commitment since 2013,  which makes it easy to support this motion, the issue of pre-determination is an evasion. We should stand up and tell residents, this is where we draw the line. We need a recorded vote on this issue.’

The response from the Conservative majority was voiced by the cabinet member for Finance, Governance, Digital and Climate Change, Cllr Chris Vinson, who said, “This council isn’t ultimately the decision maker. . . , we are a statutory consultee. The name escapes me of the arms length body that deals with licensing, they and KCC are involved. When and if an application comes up, our response should reflect all the concerns [water resources, roads, traffic, lights ] we had in 2013. The sentiment I agree with, but I can’t support this motion, we can’t be seen to pre-determine in anyway.  Our current policy is reasonable and should stand, but I can’t support this motion.

IMG_20221019_174619 (1)

The vote was as follows:

  • Abstentions 4
    (Conservatives absent:  Back, Manion, Kenton, Richardson )
  • For 10
    (Labour absent Jones, Zosseder )
  • Against  12
  • Total 32 cllrs

Sarah Waite-Gleave said afterwards: ‘since 23 Sept 2022, Conservative councils across England have been voting to oppose fracking, to put community before party to distance themselves from Conservative chaos in Westminster. Most recently at West Sussex County council on 14 Oct they voted to oppose fracking, which does nothing for energy bills or fuel security. Alas Dover Conservative cabinet have chosen tonight to put party before community and Ms Elphicke in parliament has also put party before the future health of her constituents tonight too.’