The exploration company, IGas, has been accused of wasting public money by appealing against the refusal of planning permission to test its well at Ellesmere Port.
Cheshire West and Chester councillors rejected the proposal in January, against the advice of planning officers. The council’s planning committee said the scheme did not comply with local policy because it failed to address climate change or support renewable energy (DrillOrDrop report).
After the decision, IGas’s chief operating officer, John Blaymires, said the company was very disappointed and argued that the scheme did meet national and local planning policy.
Last month, the company said in its annual accounts “It is our intention to appeal” (DrillOrDrop report).
The company has six months to lodge its case with the Planning Inspectorate and confirmed last week that this has not yet happened.
The local campaign group, Ellesmere Port Frack Free, said the cross–party response on Cheshire West and Chester Council to the testing plan had been “withering”. The group said:
“IGas seems intent on wasting more time and resource on this reckless endeavour.”
“On all the key concerns expressed by the residents of Ellesmere Port, Planning Inspectors have upheld the decisions of Planning Committees elsewhere in the country, so it is highly likely they will do the same for this appeal.
“Sadly this will impose another large waste of public money on the Cheshire tax and rate payer.”
The group accused IGas of wasting £300,000 of public money on policing and court costs to evict an anti-fracking protest camp at a prospective drilling site at Upton, near Chester, in January 2016. Less than a month later, the company announced it had decided not drill there.
At the time, the company said information from a geological survey conducted between September and November 2015 had not been available when the decision to evict the camp was made.
Ellesmere Port Frack Free said:
“It is a real shame that private companies can waste such huge amounts of public money with so little accountability. If they were charged for the public services that they consume (as the Localism Act 2015 suggests), they would be far less likely to act in this irresponsible manner trying to impose something on the public that the public does not want.”
In the application to drill the Ellesmere Port well, IGas had said it was targeting coal bed methane. But the formation that IGas now wants to test is the deeper Pentre Chert.
Jim Cameron, of Frack Free Upton, said:
“This is the equivalent of erecting a tower block where there is planning approval only for a detached house.”
In a statement Cheshire anti-fracking groups said they had already assembled what they described as a team of national and international experts in the expectation that IGas would appeal.
“They are prepared to testify to the foolishness of this proposal”, the statement said, adding:
“There are also sufficient errors in the application to date, to warrant a Judicial Review should one be required.”
DrillOrDrop invited IGas to respond to the criticism. A spokesperson said:
“Prior to an appeal actually being submitted, it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time.”