BY RUTH HAYHURST ON JANUARY 25, 2018
Opponents of plans by IGas to test a gas well in Ellesmere Port stood to applaud Cheshire councillors this evening when they unanimously rejected the company’s planning application on climate change grounds.
The planning committee of Cheshire West and Chester Council voted to refuse the application by 11 votes to nil, against the advice of planning officers.
The committee decided the application did not comply with local planning policy which required oil and gas applications to address climate change and make the best of opportunities for renewable energy.
Earlier, around 200 people opposed to the application had marched through Chester to the council’s headquarters. More than 2,000 people had objected or signed petitions against the application.
IGas wanted to test the flow of gas in the Pentre Chert rock formation from a well drilled in 2011. The site is about 600m away from the nearest homes and less than 2km from the centre of Ellesmere Port. The company was not seeking to frack the well but the committee heard that it proposed to use 1,200m3 of liquid, including dilute acid in the flow test.
The decision follows a vote by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council to oppose unanimously plans by INEOS for shale gas exploration at Harthill earlier this afternoon and yesterday’s unanimous vote by Lancashire County Council to continue to oppose Cuadrilla over its plans for fracking at Roseacre Wood
Also this afternoon, the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, said he was delaying his decision on fracking by Third Energy at Kirby Misperton until the company had published its accounts and further financial checks had been carried out
DrillOrDrop has been compiling reaction to the vote from IGas, local MPs, councillors and campaigners.
“Considering appeal”John Blaymires, Chief Operating Officer, IGas“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 the planning statement and also has the necessary environmental permits in place.
This area of Cheshire in particular employs a significant number of people who work in businesses who rely on gas – not just as a source of power, but also as a raw material for fertilisers and chemicals.
We will now take time to consider our options including our right to bring forward an appeal.”
Local Labour MP, Chris Matheson, tweeted:
“Pleased to see council’s planning committee have tonight turned down an application to flow test a well in Ellesmere Port. Let’s hope that the message is clear from the people in Cheshire West and Chester to the Secretary of State in Westminster – not here, not now, not ever.”
“Government should be backing clean energy”Polly Steiner, north west campaigner for Friends of the EarthMs Steiner, who spoke at the committee, said the application was incomplete because IGas had not given details of the process it planned to use to test the well. She also said people living within 600m of the site would be exposed to flaring, venting and extra heavy goods vehicles. The company had failed, she added, to take account of greenhouse gas emissions from the flare.
Following the vote, Ms Steiner said:
“Councillors have listened to the hundreds of local people who have opposed shale gas testing and thankfully rejected these plans.
“Instead of dirty fracking, the government should be backing clean renewable energy which could create thousands of new jobs in Cheshire.”
“IGas avoided fracking regulations”Colin Watson, Chester resident and chartered chemical engineerMr Watson, who also spoke against the application, said:
“IGas claimed that this is an acid squeeze, which avoids fracking regulations. No matter how you viewed it, it still involved 1,200 tonnes of shale gas to be flared, so we are delighted at the decision today”.
“We hope IGas will respect local democracy”Matt Bryan, Cheshire West and Chester CouncillorCllr Bryan, another speaker against the application, said after the vote:
“I am absolutely ecstatic about the result. The committee decided that the application did not adhere to national or local climate change obligations and unusually it received cross-party resolve.
“What we are hoping for now is that IGas will respect local democracy and not appeal.
“We hope that if it does appeal, the Secretary of State will not overturn this democratic decision.”
“No one wants this”Paul Bowers, Frack Free Dee coalition“This is a fantastic result.
“I think there is a growing political realisation that no one wants this. We’re no longer talking just to the choir. This is now the consensus. I feel that we are close to getting rid of this toxic industry.”
“Councillors listened and came to right decision”Peter Benson, Cheshire and District Friends of the Earth“We are absolutely delighted.
“We have put together fantastic local objections that tore apart the complacent comments that this operation should be safe if we do everything right.
“It was marvellous to see, going round the council table, that the councillors had read what we had to say, they listened to the people who spoke and came to the right decision.”