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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

European Shale gas and Oil Summit 2

Stakeholder engagement - Communicating with the public - continued

I have just asked a question, which I paraphrase here:

Most of the questions so far have been about communication between companies and the planning authorities. Clearly companies feel more comfortable with that than talking directly to the general public, and indeed they have to engage the local planning authorities to obtain the correct planning permissions. Does the panel think that the best way is to talk to the public more directly and at a stage before the position of a well pad has been defined so that local sensitivities can be avoided and be seen to be avoided.

Sam Schofield of Cuadrilla agrees that ordinary language down the pub is the correct way of doing things and that there is the scope for academics to act as honest brokers is huge, especially in making up for the BBCs failure. He points out that industry cannot fund academics and suggests that DECC ought to arrange some public information push.

Andrew Austin of Igas supports this, mentioning that some flexibility exists in planning shale gas pads and the exact position is best arranged with the input of the local community, such that schools, say, can be avoided and transport routes can be made to have as little impact as possible.

Jennifer Moore, the Head of Planning at Chorley Council underlines the point that EARLY and GENUINE engagement with the public is essential, and that local authorities are in the best position to provide the initial contacts.

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