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Ellesmere Port to stay Frack Free after Communities Secretary dismisses appeal by IGas

8th June 2022

Cheshire campaigners are celebrating as iGas acidification appeal is dismissed

CPRE Cheshire and CPRE Lancashire, Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester welcome the decision of the Communities Secretary, Michael Gove, to block IGas’s appeal of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s refusal of its shale gas exploration scheme in Ellesmere Port.

Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, the local campaigning group to voice local concerns, was the Rule 6 Party at the appeal held in 2019. The group’s representation at the appeal was led by Colin Watson (front row, far left) who had a working knowledge of the area from his career in engineering.

IGas had a formidable case and professional representation; however, Estelle Dehon QC skilfully examined the evidence of some nine witnesses, covering harms associated with greenhouse gas emission, geological faults, local public health and wellbeing and overall planning policy issues. CPRE’s planning director Jackie Copley acted as planning witness and drew together the conclusions of other experts to demonstrate that the planning balance was not favourable.

Inspector Brian Cook concluded that the positives of the scheme in reusing the existing well pad and temporary jobs benefits did not outweigh the harms from greenhouse gas emission or to local public health. He ruled they balanced. He noted the significant level of greenhouse gas emissions were not in line with the local plan policies and he accepted the perceived harms did amount to real stress and anxiety in a local community that had already had its ‘fair share’ of industrial land uses. He accepted the evidence that the local population is particularly vulnerable in terms of health deprivation.

Of note, whilst he acknowledged, in such planning matters it is to be assumed that the regulators will properly regulate, nevertheless, in this case previous incidents at local industrial sites had caused real harm and associated stress of future adverse health impacts in the local community and this warranted the appeal being dismissed.

IGas has six weeks to consider whether there are grounds for a legal challenge.

Regrettably, Colin Watson died last year before learning of the successful outcome of his efforts. CPRE wishes to formally recognise the importance of his input, and that of the wider FFEPU group, including James Cameron, in helping to ensure the adopted local plan policies were relied upon to guide the decision in the best interests of the local community.

Further good news as Mr Gove stops appeal by Ineos Upstream in Woodsetts, south Yorkshire against the inspector’s recommendation, however bad news for Loxley, near Dunsfold, Surrey, where an appeal by UK Oil & Gas was allowed and permission granted. Why fossil fuel is being extracted with the known harms to the climate is beyond the understanding of the team at CPRE. We will continue to campaign for fossil fuel to be kept in the ground with all the benefit that brings.

Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton campaigners Jackie Copley