Colin Watson, a leading campaigner against fracking and shale gas developments in Cheshire, has died.
He had suffered acute heart failure while mountain biking on Thursday 6 August 2020.
Colin Watson was an expert witness for Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton at a public inquiry in spring 2019. He helped to lead the group’s case against IGas plans to test its shale gas well at Ellesmere Port.
He chaired Chester Sustainability Forum and was a member of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s climate advisory panel.
Colin Watson had been a chartered engineer for 35 years and was a member of the Institute of Engineering Technology.
He had worked on the management of industrial processes, large projects and risk. He was a control specialist on uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing facilities and later worked in the chemicals industry on facilities design, construction and operation.
More recently, he specialised in project management for a large multi-national corporation and as a consultant.
At the Ellesmere Port inquiry, Colin Watson argued that IGas’s proposed test was at the “wrong place and the wrong time.”
He said the site, at Portside North, was unsuitable because it was 320m from homes, and 800m from a children’s play centre and two residential homes for elderly people.
He told the inquiry:
“Having been responsible for design and operation of hazardous installations I am concerned that the site does not offer multiple safe escape routes for either IGas employees, or for the businesses at the end of the cul-de-sac.
“The poor access and egress to the site in the event of an emergency weighs in favour of the planning application being refused.”
The result of the Ellesmere Port inquiry was due to be announced by the local government secretary in April 2020. But the decision was delayed and no announcement date has since been given.
Since then, Colin Watson used freedom of information legislation to try to publish the recommendation of the inquiry inspector, Brian Cook. But the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government turned down his initial request and maintained its refusal after an internal review.
Colin Watson was described as “a great campaigner”.
He was a regular speaker at events on climate change, fracking and sustainability, both in Cheshire and across the UK.
Frack Free Dee said today:
“This is a huge blow and loss for us all. Colin had the passion and an eye for detail that will be very hard to replace.”
Matt Bryan, the cabinet member for climate emergency on Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC), said this morning:
“Colin has been instrumental in various campaigners, from anti-fracking, XR, cycling and pushing the overall green agenda through the Sustainability Forum, which he chaired, and the Cheshire West and Chester Council advisory panel on achieving net-zero (or better).”
Barbara Richardson, of Frack Free Lancashire, said:
“Colin always supported us here in Lancashire and hopefully we helped Cheshire too. He will be sadly missed. A great campaigner and lovely man. Sincerest condolences to his family.”
Updated 12 August 2020 to confirm cause of death.