Two potential new drilling sites acquired by IGas in Cheshire have put meadows rearing a traditional breed of cattle “under siege”, the farmer says.
Star Energy, a subsidiary of IGas, has acquired the sites at Bridge Trafford within 500m of land used by Huw Rowlands to raise Red Poll beef cattle.
This morning, Mr Rowlands said:
“We are now under siege by IGas, who can frack beneath our entire farm assuming that they gain the relevant consents.”
“Given the powers that central government has assumed to over-rule any authority which opposes fracking, my fear is that the destruction of the farm and our herd of Red Poll cattle has moved a step closer.”
Mr Rowlands told us the two sites were about 800m apart on an unstable peat floodplain. He said:
“It could finish us off if they go ahead with fracking. Our cattle graze the meadows and drink out of the water courses and we know what happens to cattle in Pennsylvania that drink on land that is fracked.”
His farm at the The Grange aims to work in “harmony with nature” and uses little artificial fertiliser. It treats animals with veterinary medicines only when absolutely necessary.
Mr Rowlands said:
“If they were looking for the worse possible place for environmental damage from a fracking operation, then this is it.”
He said a geological fault runs across one site and there is a junction of faults beneath the other. One site was near the epicentre of an earthquake in 1750 which was one of the biggest on record in the UK, he said.
He added that one of the sites is near a drinking water borehole. Also nearby is a landfill site, two Victorian railway embankments and a high pressure gas pipeline that had shifted on its housing. He said the River Gowy flows through the meadows and then on to the Mersey Estuary, an internationally important site for wetland birds.
One of the sites is at the junction of Warrington Road and Ince Lane in Bridge Trafford. The other is on Morley Lane. There is no planning permission for hydrocarbon exploration or production with the sites and no applications are known to have been made.
The news emerged two months after IGas abandoned two nearby sites at Mickle Trafford and Upton. The company said the Ince Lane site provided an “option” for its operations. Results of seismic testing in the area would be used to decide whether it was suitable for gas exploration. The tests would also determine whether the target would be coal bed methane or shale gas.
A spokesman for the company said the industry had an excellent track record on health and safety and environmental protection. He told the Chester Chronicle:
“At IGas, we place the highest priority on the protection of the environment, and we have been doing so onshore in the UK for over 30 years.”
He said once the results of seismic testing were known the company would consult with the local people. IGas was, he said “committed to acting openly and honestly with the local communities”.
Mr Rowlands said IGas had not been touch with him. He said there had been rumours since last year that the company was looking for other sites. But this week documents from the Land Registry confirmed the purchases.
Opponents of IGas’s operations in Cheshire formed the Bridge Trafford Community Protection Camp page last week.
Campaigners gathered at the site yesterday and there has been discussion of establishing a camp at the new site – though some argued this would be premature before a planning application was submitted.
Mr Rowlands said this morning he would “make lots of noise” about the sites to raise public awareness. He said he would also be collecting information about the geological faults.
He has made the meeting room at his farm available for anti-fracking events and is planning an open farm event in June. He said:
“It would be a good opportunity to highlight the threat IGas poses to our farm and the wider community.”
We’ll add links to the Land Registry documents soon.