Wales

Election 2015: United front on fracking in Vale of Glamorgan

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Media captionSix of the seven candidates were invited to a hustings event on fracking in the Vale of Glamorgan

Arguments about the environment have not been headline news during this election campaign so far.

In the town and country constituency of the Vale of Glamorgan though, exploring for underground gas and the fear of fracking have galvanised some areas around Cowbridge.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock involving a high pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals.

Six of the seven election candidates met the public in a hustings held purely on the subject. And all were united in the view that there should not be any future fracking in the Vale.

Sian Elin Jones from Llantriddyd and many of her fellow anti-fracking activists in the area credit several years of campaigning for being able to bring the parties together on a platform.

"You need to be affected by it directly to start to take notice but it's important to note that fracking has found itself to the top of the local political agenda because people have mentioned it when they've been canvassed," she said.

WHAT ARE THE ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES?

Candidates from the Conservatives, Green Party, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and UKIP all explained how they opposed any fracking in future in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Alun Cairns qualifies his opposition to gas drilling in the Vale - he is not against it elsewhere.

The Green Party and Plaid Cymru want a total ban.

The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour in Wales support more research and restrictions.

But it is a different picture in England where the UK parties and UKIP support using gas as part of a diverse energy mix, provided it can be done safely.

Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol party candidate Steve Reed is also standing in the Vale and said there needs to be a debate on fracking.

He would like to hear firm evidence and what experts have to say before a decision is taken in the UK and for communities like the Vale of Glamorgan.

Image caption Councillors rejected an application to test drill for gas in 2011

There are fears around fracking elsewhere too - in Wrexham and the Neath Port Talbot area.

The interesting factor in the Vale of Glamorgan is the local concern and how that differs from some of the parties' national policies.

The Welsh Labour government after several years of not supporting gas drilling or fracking eventually supported Plaid Cymru's call in the Senedd for a moratorium.

That process could be devolved in time after the St David's Day Agreement announced by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb.

But half the votes in this constituency are to be found in Wales' largest town in Barry and the local concerns there are different: housing, amalgamating schools and traffic problems.

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Media captionPenni Carr, who runs a mother and toddler group, says other local issues dominate

Penni Carr runs a mother and toddler group in Barry.

"In Barry, I've noticed there are not many people talking about the election although they are talking about the problems that MPs or councillors could solve for us," she said.

"Barry doesn't always feel part of the Vale, almost like we're separated."

Mother-of-three Rachel Williams, whose husband runs a business in the town, said: "Obviously, immigration is a major issue, although I don't think that's a problem in Barry, it's a major national issue.

"There have been massive housing developments and there doesn't seem to be any infrastructure in place for leisure facilities, particularly for older children.

"It's not just roads, those are being catered for, but there's no local cinema, we've lost an open air pool. We have got investment in Barry Island but we're more than just a seafront."

Some pretty big national infrastructure is near Barry too - Cardiff Airport and the coal-fired power station at Aberthaw. That plant is being investigated by the European Commission because of concerns about emissions. But during this election there has been no talk of that.

While even the Green Party are debating austerity and job growth more than environmental policies, the successful candidate in the Vale of Glamorgan must hope that national issues like the economy, immigration and jobs remain in public awareness more than fracking, traffic jams or big schools merging in Barry.

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