Live updates: Cheshire councillors vote against IGas plans for gas testing at Ellesmere Port

Ellesmere Port Portside well site

Live updates on the meeting of Cheshire West and Chester Council discussing IGas’s planning application to test the flow of a gas well at Portside North, at Ellesmere Port.

Council officers have recommended the application for approval. The meeting is expecting to hear from supporters and opponents of the plans.

Opponents have said the council should have required an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and the operation should have a groundwater permit. They are also concerned about air pollution, the impact on other local industries, water contamination, seismic events, impacts on wildlife and the level of consultation carried out by IGAs.

DrillOrDrop review of reaction here

5.35pm: Vote

Committee votes 10-1 in support of the motion to refuse the application.

180125 CWAC IGas meeting Phil McCann

Opponents applaud the committee’s vote, 25 January 2018. Photo: Phil McCann

5.35pm: Cllr Alex Black, committee chair

Cllr Black says any concerns from statutory consultees have been met by conditions.

5.31pm: Fiona Hore, senior manager, planning ans strategic transport

Ms Hore says members are clearly not happy with the application. The visual impact of the rig would be difficult to defend, she says.

Ms Hore suggests a reason for refusal would be that the application does not meet local planning policy on climate change and renewable energy.

Applause from the public gallery.

Ms Hore advises against including deficient consultation as a reason for refusal.

Cllr Gill Watson says this application has stressed a lot of people about its cumulative effects.

Ms Hore says the application has clearly caused distress and anxiety but this is hard to defend as a reason for refusal.

180125 CWAC IGas meeting Cllr Eleanor Johnson5.29pm: Cllr Eleanor Johnson

Cllr Johnson says there are reasons to refuse in the report: the visual impact of the rig, the impact of noise and air quality on the surrounding area.

Rob Charnley, planning officer, says the report explains how those impacts could be mitigated and takes account of the duration of the impact.

Cllr Johnson says the workover rig would be there for quite a proportion of the time that the site would be investigated.

180125 CWAC IGas meeting Cllr Jill Houlbrook5.28pm: Cllr Jill Houlbrook

Cllr Houlbrook says a lot of people opposed the application because they don’t trust the agencies that they are being passed on to. Given their records in the past, there is a good reason for them not to trust, she says.

5.25pm: Pamela Chesterman, legal officer

Ms Chesterman says the application looks at an alternative to coal use. If it truly displaces coal, then it would address climate change.

Past behaviour of applicants is not something you can consider, she says. Where another authority takes over, we have to trust that they will do their job, she adds.

5.23pm: Cllr Eleanor Johnson

Cllr Johnson asks whether Natural England has been onsite or just done a desk assessment. She knows of mistakes acknowledged by Natural England. I would hate this to go through on a mistake, she says. If there is a mistake it will be too late.

5.17pm: Cllr Jill Houlbrook

Cllr Houlbrook says

“Our residents and communities across the world have turned themselves into experts because they are so concerned about drilling on land.

“There are people in this room who know exactly what they are talking about. We have expert information coming out of our ears.”

She says:

“If we are looking for reasons to refuse, the local plan requires oil and gas developments to address climate change and to make the best of the opportunities for renewable energy. This application doesn’t.”

She says there is nothing about renewables in the application. It is all about extracting things out of the ground that can never be replaced.

5.18pm: Pamela Chesterman, legal officer

Ms Chesterman says most activities will have an impact. From a legal requirement, there are thresholds that must be met before an EIA can be required and this application did not meet them.

The Supplementary Planning Document on oil and gas does encourage consultation but the applicant has done everything that was required, she says.

The environmental permit for the site has already been granted, she says. There is nothing from a legal perspective that the local authority can use at this stage to refuse the application.

5.17pm: Fiona Hore, senior manager, planning ans strategic transport

MS Hore says there are no sound land-based reasons to warrant an objection to this application.

She says councillors have to balance their role as members of the planning committee and elected representatives.

180125 CWAC IGas meeting Cllr Jill Watson5.16pm: Cllr Gill Watson

Cllr Watson says people are worrying and objecting with great force. We need to listen to that, she says.

5.12pm: Cllr Chris Whitehurst

Cllr Whitehurst says he is struggling on the planning reasons to refuse the application.

He says there are statements in the officer’s report that there will be an impact for a limited period. If damage is done over one day or one minute we don’t know what the impact will be, he says.

He asks how much it would cost for the council to do an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Don’t we owe that to the residents of Cheshire West, he says.

Planning officer, Rob Charnley, says the council and the Secretary of State don’t think the development needs an EIA. It isn’t for the council to do the EIA, he says.

We have consulted with everyone we need to. No one has said there are going to be significant impacts, he says. We have to accept there are going to be impacts from development. But we think they can be mitigated by conditions.

5.09pm: Cllr Norman Wright

Cllr Wright says he is concerned about the effect on air quality.

“I don’t think we should approve this and I will be voting against it. We shouldn’t inflict this on the residents of Ellesmere Port.”

5.08pm: Cllr Peter Rooney

Cllr Rooney wants to know what impact the chemicals that will be pumped under the area where he lives would have on the water courses.

Rob Charnley, planning officer, says this is an issue for the Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive. They would look at what chemicals would be used and how the environment would be protected.

180125 CWAC IGas meeting Cllr Keith Board5.07pm: Cllr Keith Board

Cllr Board says:

“This is not the right site for this type of activity and he is currently against it.”

5.03pm: Cllr Gill Watson

Cllr Watson says she is very concerned about the lack of consultation on the application. There has only been one event and leaflets distributed for that event, she says. That’s not substantial enough to concur with our Supplementary Planning Document, she says.

“We don’t know what we don’t know and that concerns me.”

The lack of an Environmental Impact Assessment is her biggest concern, she says.

Planning officer, Rob Charnley, says the Secretary of State supported the council on its decision that the development does not need an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Natural England has not objected to the application, Mr Charnley says.

180125 CWAC IGas meeting Cllr Brian Jones5.01pm: Cllr Brian Jones

Cllr Jones says he has concerns about the lack of an Environmental Impact Assessment, an emergency plan and a groundwater permit. He is also concerned about the risk of earthquakes. He says:

“The application is not for fracking but I believe it could lead to it.

There are untold risks with this and I can’t support it.”

4.59pm: Cllr Eleanor Johnson

Cllr Johnson says she has concerns about visual impacts of the development and its impact on air quality and the nearby Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

“It will be necessary for a Cheshire West and Chester Council officer to be on site at all times if the application were approved with conditions.

“We don’t have an officer to be on site at all times, she says, so I will be seconding the proposal to refuse.”

4.57pm: Cllr Jill Houlbrook

Cllr Holbrook says the application “just feels wrong”.

She says she will move refusal on the grounds than an Environmental Impact Assessment was not carried and because of the economic impact on the area.

4.52pm: Cllr Pat Merrick

Cllr Merrick, the local ward councillor, tells the committee she has represented the area for 20 years. She says the population has doubled recently, with most of the new homes close to the proposed site. She says:

“The people of Ellesmere Port are sick of the area being the dumping ground for the rest of Cheshire.”

She urges the committee: Please do not expect us to have our concerns on the issue of local public health, dismissed by experts.

We’ve had 1,400 written objections to this application and three MPs have objected, she says.

“Ellesmere Port has had enough. We do not want fracking or shale gas extraction. Call it what you want.”

We all know this is part of the process that leads to fracking, she says. She urges the committee not to liken the US or Australian experience to what would happen here.

“We are a highly populated country. The proximity of this site to our homes is too close.”

180125 CWAC IGas meeting Cllr Brian Crowe14.49pm: Cllr Brian Crowe

Cllr Crowe says the recommendation to approve is inevitable because of flaws in the council’s planning policy. Unless this is fixed quickly, the area will be inundated with similar applications, he says.

He says on oil and gas exploration, the council should presume to not be in favour unless environmental, health, insurance and community benefits are assessed and spelt out up front. The local community should share in the benefit.s The onus is on the applicant to show they have the community’s best interest at heart, he says.

“If this is not the case with this application, throw it out”.

180125 CWAC IGas meeting Cllr Ben Powell4.45pm: Non-committee members – Cllr Ben Powell

Cllr Powell says the decision is for the committee. He says: “The recommendations are fatally flawed and approving the application would be contrary to local and national policy and open the council to legal challenge.”

He raises concern about the proposed agreement between IGas and Peel Ports over a neighbouring explosives facility. Under the proposal, IGas would stop operating when the facility wanted to undertake some incompatible work.

But Cllr Powell says the application is for three years.

“You are asking to put development on hold for three years for an area that has been attracting new business.”

The development would lead to few new jobs. Passing this application would have a devastating impact on the local economy, he says.

“It will be a message that this area is closed for business. That in itself should be enough to reject the application.”

180125 CWAC IGas meeting Cllr Lynn Riley4.40pm: Non-committee members – Cllr LynnRiley

Cllr Riley says the consistent message from the speakers is the consultation has been inadequate. There are more questions than answers.

She says this application would have been a good opportunity for a referendum. She says:

“We’ve argued to strengthen the policy on giving local people a voice. Local people are the experts in their area.”

Cllr Riley says flaring for 88 days would take place alongside one of busiest stretches of motorway in the north west. The sections of motorway are notorious for accidents, she says. The site drops away from the motorway at this point so the flaring is going to be taking place at eye level.

There is a very significant RAMSAR wildlife site on the estuary, she says.  There are birds of international importance. Birds are being displaced by a windfarm, she says. There is going to be a dispersal impact of this application.

There’s been significant development in the area. Lots of new business and jobs and housing have come to the area. The absence of an emergency plan has to be considered, she adds.

“More consultation is needed and before that happens I don’t see how you can approve this scheme.”

180125 CWAC IGas meeting Cllr Matt Bryan4.34pm: Non-committee members – Cllr Matt Bryan

Cllr Bryan says oil and gas applicants are required by planning guidelines to consult local people at the earliest stage.

The initial stage of this development has bypassed the planning process and evaded consultation, he says. The application should be refused for not complying with the planning process.

There is no environmental impact assessment (EIA), he says. Extended well tests would normally be subject to an EIA. This hasn’t been insisted on, he says.

We have a Site of Special Scientific Interest 200m away and this should mean an EIA should have been carried out to test the impact on it. The application should be refused because it does not comply the EIA regulations,he says.

The proposed flaring is not low-carbon or compatible with local and national climate change policy, Cllr Bryan adds..

We don’t know enough about this application. He adds that the area already suffers from some of the highest levels of illness.

4.32pm: Statement from Cllr Stephen Smith, non-committee member

The statement calls for the rejection of the application. He describes it as “pivotal”.

There is not enough information on the volume and make-up of waste, he says. There should be borehole monitoring. There should be an emergency plan.

He regards this as in contravention of local planning policy. The majority of residents want the application to be rejected.

He calls for the application to be rejected and the paper used to print it to be recycled.

180125 CWAC IGas meeting Cllr Andrew Dawson4.29pm: Cllr Andrew Dawson

Cllr Dawson says:

“This is the last site I would ever think of for an exploration site.”

There is a potential impact on an explosive facility nearby. If something goes wrong, what will happen, he asks. The wider communities of Cheshire and Merseyside would be affected.

“As far as I’m concerned this shouldn’t get consent.”

He says the council’s Suplementary Planning Document is a “fracker’s charter”

“I don’t think this site is suitable for this sort of development.”

180125 CWAC IGas meeting John Blaymires4.24pm: John Blaymires, chief operating officer of IGas Energy

Mr Blaymires tells the committee the original well was drilled in 2011.

The company is applying to test the well for commercial gas production. The application is not for fracking and it is not seeking to test shale gas. The target is in the Pentre Chert.

The UK and the Ellesmere Port area relies on gas for energy and raw materials, he says.

The application complies with local and national planning policy. Permits for the development have been issued in 2017 by the Environment Agency, he says. There have been no objection from statutory consultees.

“Members of the committee can be confident the development will be conducted safely and in accordance with regulation.”

4.20pm: Opponents of the application – Felicity Dowling

Ms Dowling is a former teacher in Ellesmere Port. Given the density of industry in that area, how will bringing in another hazardous industry possibly be safe, she says.

The proximity to mining, salt, the ship canal and chemicals will not be safe, she says.

It is an industrialised area with many hazardous sites. It would be wrong to risk those industries with this application, Ms Dowling says.

This is an area of major hazards. It would be wrong to risk further hazards, she says.

We know that fracking can cause earthquakes or smaller tremors. The ship canal nearby is not earthquake-resistant. That risk should be looked at seriously.

We think there has been human error and deliberate flouting of safety regulations, Ms Dowling says.

“For the children of Ellesmere Port, I think it is really important that this stops.”

4.16: Opponents of the application -Polyanna Steiner

Ms Steiner, speaking for Friends of the Earth, says the application does qualify as fracking. IGas proposes to use 1,200m3 of liquid in the flow test, which passes the volume limit in the Infrastructure Act.

The company has neglected to give details on the process and this makes the application incomplete, she says. This makes the application inconsistent with planning policy.

The application should also require a groundwater permit, she says.

People living within 600m will be exposed to flaring, venting and extra heavy goods vehicles.

The applicant fails to account for extra greenhouse gas emissions, including from 88 days of flaring, she adds

4.13: Opponents of the application – Jed Isaac

Mr Isaac says he lives 700m from the site. He is a member of Ellesmere Port Frack Free.

He says the community has not been dealt with with respect. People are worried about the impurities in shale gas and the impact of pollution from the site.

He says the gas will be used in the production of plastics at a time when we have to commit to reduce its use.

He asks the committee to respect the community and reject the application. If it doesn’t the community will continue to object, he says.

He urges the committee to “be planners for a better future”.

4.09pm: Opponents of the application – Colin Watson

Mr Watson is speaking for Ellesmere Port Frack Free. He tells the committee is a chemical engineer with 35 years experience.

There has been no environmental impact assessment for the site, he says. This should be carried out under council policy.  There is no detail of the chemicals to be pumped into the well.

The company says the application is not for fracking and so it avoids fracking regulations. But it will disturb the shale, Mr Watson says.

There is no emergency plan to support any permission. I ask you to consider the impact on the 5,000 people living within a mile of the site, he says.

You have been provided with insufficient information, he says. There have been a great many breaches of planning permission, he adds.

4.05pm: Rob Charnley, planning officer

The planning officer tells the meeting that IGas has promised to vacate the site if a nearby explosives facility wished to carry out work that might be constrained by the exploration wellsite.

He says additional information on air quality has been submitted. It does not change the planners’ recommendation.

IGas has given extra information on its consultation programme, the planning officer says.

4pm: Meeting opens

Cllr Alex Black opens the meeting

3.30pm: Opponents outside Cheshire West and Chester Council

180125 CWAC march Helen Rimmer3

Opponents of IGas Ellesmere Port application outside the CWAC headquarters, 25 January 2018. Photo: Helen Rimmer, Friends of the Earth

3pm: Opponents march to Cheshire West and Chester headquarters

180125 CWAC march Helen Rimmer

March by opponents of IGas application to test its well at Ellesmere Port march through Chester, 25 January 2018. Photo: Helen Rimmer, Friends of the Earth

180125 CWAC march Helen Rimmer2

March by opponents of IGas application to test its well at Ellesmere Port march through Chester, 25 January 2018. Photo: Helen Rimmer, Friends of the Earth

26/1/18  Vote to refuse corrected from Unanimous to 10-1


Categories: Regulation

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15 replies »

  1. quote .( The company is applying to test the well for commercial gas operations. The application is not for fracking and it is not seeking to test shale gas. The target is in the Pentre Chert. ) Ms. Dowling is a former teacher in Ellesmere Port as such you would think she would be capable of understanding the statement by Mr.Blaymires. But no she proceeds to harp on about fracking, & earthquakes & about introducing danger. forgive me if I’ve misunderstood but there’s a nearby explosives facility. you can,t get any more dangerous than that.

  2. This will be overturned on Appeal. The interesting bit is whether Igas will push for costs-I suspect they will. When the Planning Officer has to explain to the councillors why they have rejected it, then it is not a strong baseline, when the Planners have previously recommended approval!

  3. The officers were not correct, gas is not displacing coal. Coal is going in 2025 and that will happen whether gas is extracted at this site or not. Furthermore it is recognised that renewables along with nuclear will be in the main responsible for greening the grid and keeping the lights on going forwards. The argument for gas has now switched to heating homes/buildings and cooking. However, quite rightly the CCC has stated, and agrees with most experts, that buildings need to have improved insulation to reduce demand in this area too. The direction of travel for all fossil fuels is reduction. And herein lies the crux of the problem, the UK along with other nations should not be extracting new fossil fuel reserves if we are serious about climate change. Because even if the UK tries to justify new gas/oil extraction by stating we will import less therefore that offsets our carbon use/target and that means it is OK, it most definitely is not OK. Climate change has no borders and ultimately if more hydrocarbons are extracted more will be burnt, thus adding to the global load, rising temperatures and air pollution.

  4. So, the Planning Officer that recommended approval, had to tell the councillors what basis they were rejecting on, although she advised acceptance. That will not withstand an appeal.
    It will happen, if Igas appeal, and costs will be substantial.

    • Spot on. Frankly you would think that Councillors who went along to oppose a recommendation would have the courtesy to write their own reasons for refusal (even if they had to seek guidance on wording before the meeting) but it has become common place for them to expect the officers to make them up on the spot, even though they don’t support them. Frankly the Councillors don’t have a clue whether the reason chosen by the officer has any chance of being successful. The officer was clearly intent on keeping the reasons to a minimum both to save wasted work arguing for them, and to save money in the costs that will be awarded against the Council.

  5. A very surprising meeting, Not only did all the opponenets delivered very measured concerns, all the guest councillors delivered a very damming appraisal of the application. All of the members of the planning committee also delivered a very damming appraisal of the application. Congratulations to the Planning Committee.

  6. And yet more shambles shown by an out of depth backward nimby council. Anyone else starting to see a trend?
    Do the weak councilors want the big decisions taken back to central government? I think everyone that has one little brain cell can work it out [edited by moderator]

      • So here is your philosophical conundrum for January:

        If I ask you to put your hand in the fire, would you?

        I see the fire and am very drawn to it and want to see if it’s hot or not?
        I have been told to put my hand in the fire but I know this will be bad for me so I won’t?
        What the hell, I’ll put my hand in the fire?

        Which one are you?

        • Its not a problem Sherwulfe, in fact i find it amusing to see the anti anti’s temper tantrums and screaming blue murder fits about injunctions and appeals. That is all they have left of their tattered dwindling dreams. The truth they feared has happened. That people would wake up to their lies and greed and avarice.
          And now they need to blame their imaginary bogey men to keep them awake in the freezing cold aching emptiness of their own bleak and soulless internal wasteland.


          It speaks of fear and hatred of something they can’t buy or own or steal or lie about, especially to themselves.
          Simple human common decency and honesty and care for all has overturned their sick dreams of power and domination.
          So to appease that empty vacant internal void that can’t be filled by anything, no matter how desperate they are to do so, they need to blame someone else, not themselves, never themselves, they must never be at fault, it is always somebody else they must blame.
          I feel sorry for them.

  7. The puffed up fossil fuel brigade are out in force tonight. Of course they know best and there are no other professionals in this world but themselves. The caterwauling and sniping must mean it was quite a defeat!

  8. The decision was not unanimous. The Chair of the Committee voted agianst refusal – indicating the vote was 10 : 1. Of course he didn’t actually articulate any reasons for his vote.

    • (0915) We originally thought the chairman had voted against the refusal, but it appears he was voting against the application and for refusal.

      (1130) We have now checked with the Council Press Office who report that the vote was 10-1 supporting the motion to refuse. Apologies for the inaccurate information earlier

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