DART Energy, the company behind plans to drill for coal bed methane around Airth in central Scotland, said it expects ministers to take up to a year to rule on the controversial proposals.

The unconventional gas specialist aims to drill 22 wells at 14 sites to bring its coal seam gas project at Airth to development.

It appealed to the Scottish Government to rule on its application after its "non-determination" by Falkirk and Stirling councils, which said the plans raised environmental issues and public concerns to be addressed.

The Government said reporter Karen Heywood at the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals has judged the proposals are highly technical and have to be tested by cross examination, and that the cases should proceed by enquiry sessions. A spokeswoman said it would be the first half of October before a pre-examination meeting to establish the timing, start date, subject matter and participation can be held.

Australian-listed Dart said in its quarterly report yesterday that the process may take 12 months to resolve.

Dart also provided an update on its Solway Basin project at Canonbie, Dumfries and Galloway, where it aims to extra coal seam gas in an area straddling the border between Scotland and England.

The company plans to drill two more pilot production wells later this year after tests on two pilot wells revealed good flows of gas to surface in 2008.

Dart held a public meeting with local stakeholders and carried out work on land access in the last quarter.