Plans to test for methane near Pontrhydyfen have been turned down by Neath Port Talbot Council’s planning committee
Inside the Barron Moss fracking site near Manchester
An application to test for methane, which locals believe could lead to “fracking” for shale gas in a forestry site near the birthplace of legendary actor Richard Burton, has been turned down by councillors.
Members of Neath Port Talbot Council’s planning committee rejected plans by UK Methane Ltd for an exploratory borehole at land within the Foel Fynyddau Forest, near the Afan Valley village of Pontrhydyfen where miner’s son Richard Burton was born on November 10, 1925.
The proposal by Bridgend-based UK Methane Ltd was to use a bore hole to test for any coal bed methane gases in the area.
Residents have raised concerns the application could lead to a future application for hydraulic fracturing known as fracking.
Following a two-hour debate on the issue, councillors voted by 17-6 against the idea citing noise and lack of planning guidance on the issue for their decision.
Pontrhydyfen councillor Martin Ellis said: “This is a very important issue for members of my constituency. It’s the first borehole application for shale in Neath Port Talbot.”
Public meetings have been held in the area by those concerned about the possibility of fracking.
Campaigner Keith Ross said: “This application will not involve hydraulic fracturing [“fracking”] but the company has made clear in their application if the testing is successful they would submit an additional planning application for ‘longer term pilot production’.”
An expansion of fracking in the UK was given the go ahead in July when the bidding process for shale companies seeking licences to explore for oil and gas opened.
But the UK Government pledged it would only take place in areas like National Parks in “exceptional circumstances”.
The Welsh Affairs select committee in Westminster concluded in a report published a month earlier that new sources of gas needed to be found though fracking shouldn’t be given the go-ahead at the expense of the environment.
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: “Shale gas could be an opportunity for Wales and exploratory drilling will help us understand how it will contribute.”
Provisional oil and gas drilling licences have already been granted in parts of South and East Wales but planning permission is needed to progress beyond exploration.