Monday, 26 August 2013

Call It In!

A beautiful sunny day at the Pontarddulais Show saw a well-attended stand organised by the Greenspace Cymru umbrella group today, with many residents from around the area expressing concern in particular about the proposed "Coal Seam gas" development proposed for the Burry Inlet.

One high profile guest popping in for a chat was the local Assembly Member, Edwina Hart, and she was quizzed by a number of us on the Welsh Government's position on this development. Of course many aspects of it  - including the licensing blocks - are consented by the UK Government in London, which meant that, unsurprisingly, Edwina was quick to point out that the Cardiff Bay administration does not have power over many aspects of these developments.

However, there are powers the Welsh Government does have - if it chooses to use them. These include powers of "Call In", (click on the link) which mean that the Welsh Government can effectively step in and remove an application from the hands of the relevant planning authority. Of course, this isn't an everyday occurrence, and the Welsh Government is rightly wary of interfering with the power of local planning authorities to determine planning matters within their boundaries. Consequently, there have to be novel grounds for the Welsh Government to call in applications, so if the issue:

  • Has wide effects beyond the immediate locality;
  • Causes regional or national controversy;
  • Is likely to significantly affect areas of landscape, scientific, nature or historical importance;
  • Raises issues of national security; or
  • Raises novel planning issues.
There may be grounds to call in the application. Underground Coal Gasification surely falls into at least one of these categories, if not more. The technology is relatively untested in the UK, and given the Burry Inlet is a protected SSSI, SPA and SAC protected under both British and European law, the nature conservation issues raised are likely to be significant. The Burry Inlet also supports important local industries, such as Cockling and fishing, so there are economic impacts too.

At the end of the day, the Welsh Government does have certain powers  over these developments. Given the seriousness of this kind of development, when the application is lodged, the Welsh Government should look seriously at calling it in. 


  1. Good point - fracking is a novel, or new-ish extraction method that is banned in several European countries. Given the amount of Wales potentially affected by this in the north-east and southern coalfields then it's a no brainer for the National Assembly to call it in and/or debate its signficance regardless of whether the UK Govt has the final say.

  2. Abukir - This is April 2014 and most people in North Gower have only just heard of the gasification scheme. We're very worried about subsidence if the coal seams
    burn away beyond the shoreline (ie under our houses), as well as the obvious general objection that this is an environmet of great international importance. Does
    anyone have detailed knowledge of these coal seams, please?