Campaign groups Ellesmere Port Frack Free and Frack Free Upton have joined forces to defend the decision to refuse planning permission for testing a gas well at Ellesmere Port.
The scheme, proposed by IGas, was rejected in January 2018 by Cheshire West and Chester Council planning committee. The committee said the scheme did not comply with local planning policy, which required applications to address climate change and make the best of opportunities for renewable energy.
In July 2018, IGas appealed against the refusal and a public inquiry is due to start on 15 January 2019.
The campaign groups have been granted Rule 6 status, which means they have a right to legal representation, present evidence to the inquiry and cross-examine witnesses. Their case has been backed by the local MP.
A spokesperson for the groups said today:
“Clearly we are disappointed that IGas has appealed this decision, it is both a waste of public money and people’s time when a democratic view has been expressed.
“However we are pleased that the Inspector has recognised the strength of feeling locally on this issue, reflected by the high number of objections to the original proposal, and granted a public hearing.
“There are many reasons for opposing this proposal from local air pollution and noise, to the need to reduce our gas consumption to mitigate the climate change which is being seen this week in record storms around the world.”
The groups said they were assembling “a team of experienced and committed professional experts to support the case for refusal”. This included a barrister with experience of unconventional gas development and experts on climate change, environmental protection and geology, they said.
Chester MP Chris Matheson said:
“I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the anti-fracking movement in Cheshire, but it has always been the people as well as politics that has stopped the frackers so far.
“Now IGas have appealed against a clear decision made by democratically elected councillors, we find ourselves asking again for the support of the people.”
The groups have set up a fundraising webpage (link here)
After January’s refusal of the Ellesmere Port scheme, the IGas chief executive, Stephen Bowler, said:
“We are very disappointed by the Committee decision that goes against the recommendation of their Planning Officer and is an application that accords with both national and local planning policy as set out in our planning statement and has the necessary environmental permits in place.
Our businesses have been operating exploration and production sites in a safe and environmentally sensitive manner across Britain for many years, engaging with communities and employing local people and investing in the local supply chain.
“We are at a critical juncture in the future of our energy mix and supply, as we move away from coal towards lower carbon energy sources. We are currently importing c. 50% of gas and that is set to rise to nearly 80% by 2035.”
The inquiry is scheduled to last six days.
Interested parties had until today to submit their case. The council must submit it case by 28 September and the two campaign groups by 11 October 2018.