The Labour MP for Chester, Chris Matheson, has called on IGas to contribute to the costs of the eviction of an anti-fracking camp at its coal bed methane site at Upton on the edge of the city.
The company announced this lunchtime it would not carry out exploratory drilling at the site at Duttons Lane or at another site at Salters Lane, Mickle Trafford, also near Chester. It said coal bed methane development in the area was not commercially viable. See DrillOrDrop report
Mr Matheson told us he was delighted at the news but he also criticised the company for going ahead with the eviction, just over three weeks ago, when it may have known that the site would not be needed.
About 175 police from four forces were used in the operation, which the police estimated to have cost £200,000. Nine people were arrested. IGas would not comment on the eviction or costs today.
Mr Matheson said:
“The Police and Crime Commissioner for Chester, if he had any bottle, should be writing to IGas about contributing to the costs of the eviction if they knew that they would not need the site.”
“They now need to explain why they were pushing for that eviction to go ahead when there was doubt about the need for the site.”
“I am always very wary about private companies paying for the police because the police become part of these private companies. We pay our taxes and one of the things we get for that is a police force.”
“Having said that, when you have such a huge operation, that might not have been necessary, there has either been negligence or a “don’t care” attitude and we now need to be demanding the company pays part of these costs.
Mr Matheson said the Upton site was not suitable for fracking.
“This is top quality farm land close to schools and residential areas and to the tourist attraction of Chester zoo. It lies above an aquifer that feeds into the river Dee. It was unsuitable for fracking and I pay tribute to the campaigners, including Upton Protection Camp, and the local residents who have joined our campaign over the last couple of years to oppose fracking in Chester.”
But he said the campaign would go on.
“IGas may have pulled out but the licence areas are still available so the campaign is not over. We will be wary of other companies that chose to chance their arm and we will stand ready to repel all boarders”.
Matt Bryan, a local councillor who was arrested during the eviction, tweeted Victory:
Frack Free Dee, a coalition of groups, opposed to fracking at Upton, said:
“Community fight back can and does make a difference. The war may not be over but this is a clear victory for the anti-fracking community. From the people on the camps to the people pouring over the planning applications with a fine tooth comb, working together is our greatest strength.”
We asked the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Chester to comment on Mr Matheson’s call but no one was available. We’ll update this post if that changes.
In January, IGas’s website said it planned to drill to about 1,200m at Salters Lane to remove a core for coal for analysis of gas content. Under the terms of the planning permission for the site the company had until 9th September to start work on the well.
The website said in January that the proposed well at Duttons Lane would provide information about coal bed methane content. The planning permission on the site required work to start by 28th May.
DrillOrDrop report on the eviction (12th January 2016)
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