Fracking? Our position is… actually we have no position

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Could Tunbridge Wells be sitting on a bottomless lake of black gold? Are we destined to become the Dubai of Kent? Sadly, we may never know after those in charge of finding out decided not to waste their time on ‘hypotheticals’.

At a council meeting last week, after months of painstaking research, Cllr James Hannam (Frittenden & Sissinghurst) – speaking on behalf of his diligent team at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee – announced to the esteemed members of the Cabinet that they had come to the conclusion that having any sort of policy was, frankly, a waste of time.

At the end of the day it’s all a matter for everyone else, especially Kent County Council and the Government, was the verdict. This ‘Borough Council policy position statement’ on fracking in the borough left councillors somewhat bemused at the lack of either a policy or a position.

‘Exceedingly bland and rather wishy-washy,’ were the carefully chosen words of Cllr Alan McDermott’s (Brenchley & Horsmonden) evaluation of the ‘policy’.

“Well the wishy-washiness was somewhat deliberate,” responded a rather crestfallen Cllr Hannam.

He referred to the ‘unnecessary controversy’ that an actual for or against position on fracking would create, especially considering that fracking in the borough is entirely hypothetical.

Council Leader David Jukes politely reminded Hannam that the purpose of a policy statement was not to avoid controversy but to ‘say what it is. Yes or no’.

And besides, with the nation ‘hostage’ to belligerent regimes overseas when it comes to our energy security, a clear statement of intent is more vital than ever, he insisted.

It was this line of reasoning that gave Conservative Cllr Jukes the opportunity to put Liberal Democrat Cllr Ben Chapelard (St James) in his place.

Dismissing the sole Lib Dem concerns that fracking would be a regressive step and we should encourage renewable energies, the Cabinet Leader warned that if the Russians turn off our gas supply: “Your gas central heating will not work, I can assure you! And your solar power will work with limited effect and you can put up a windmill if you like.

“Personally, I’d emigrate.”

He was not yet done with Cllr Chapelard either, for when the lonely eco-warrior earnestly suggested that he ‘would like to make some proposals’, Cllr Jukes was quick to interject:

“Let me stop you there. You are not on the Cabinet yet, so we are not listening to your proposals.”

Slightly taken aback, and probably wishing the Dear Leader really would emigrate, Cllr Chapelard qualified his position: “OK my ‘comments’, if you like.” He then continued to make his policy ‘proposals’ anyway, with his mention of electric cars drawing laughs from the rest of the Cabinet.

This reporter looks forward to an update on the fracking policy – hopefully next time it will be slightly more groundbreaking.

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