January 2017 Update
Some 14 years ago the plans to store gas in the salt deposits beneath the River Wyre came to the notice of the public.
Information was initially scant as to what and where things might happen and concern built up within the communities on both sides of the river. The quest for more detailed information led to significant duplications of effort and in many instances disparities soon appeared highlighting the resources available and expertise (or lack of it) within the various community groups.
It was clear that this was no ordinary planning application and that there was a huge amount of information to be examined on a whole range of subjects, especially concerning the geology, engineering, safety issues, traffic, noise, pollution risks and ecology.
Following an initial meeting between some of those concerned it was decided to invite various community groups to join together to pool resources and to share information, local knowledge, concerns, etc and thus the Protect Wyre Group was born. It was to be the coordinating body for the groups and the public face of the opposition to the scheme.
The support of the public was overwhelming and something in the order of 30,000 letters were written in addition to the objections raised by the various councillors, councils at parish, borough and county level, statutory bodies and our MPs and MEPs to the Secretaries of State via the Public Inquiries and Examinations by the National Infrastructure Planning Inspectorate.
Planning permission was finally granted in July 2015 by the Secretary of State, Amber Rudd, on the advice of the unelected Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth who was appointed as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for DECC shortly before in May 2015. This was in spite of the government’s own consultants, Senergy, considering that there was only a 5.8% chance of Halite achieving 300 mcm of working gas which is at odds with Halite’s claim that the proposed scheme will add 20% to the nation’s storage capacity.
Lancashire County Council stated that “if the proposed capacity is reduced to the degree identified [by Senergy], the County Council is concerned that the benefits associated with such a project and the contribution it would subsequently make to national need would not outweigh the impacts of the development on the local landscape”. Halite confirmed that the size of the above ground infrastructure will not change regardless of the working gas capacity of the storage facility.
The Planning Inspectorate also expressed concern to the Secretary of State that “if only a materially lower volume of gas capacity can be achieved it may not give sufficient benefit to outweigh the adverse impacts of the project”.
Tens of thousands of hours and indeed tens, if not hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent by individuals, councils and the British tax payer in examining this scheme in its many repetitive forms, all of which reached the same initial conclusion – REFUSAL!
The 2016 National Grid 10 Year Statement showed that UK gas storage in the order of 4,600 mcm was available with a further 8,700 mcm in seven ‘planning permission granted‘ schemes, all of which appear to be stalled for lack of investment and all of which appear to be in better and proven salt strata than the proposed Preesall scheme. A total of 13,300 mcm.
Halite’s contribution could be as little as 130 mcm - hardly a significant contribution to the national need!
So with planning permission finally granted, PWG’s coordinating role is over as there is nothing to be done now until development commences and then it will be under the auspices of the regulatory planning authorities to ensure that the development complies with the planning laws and is as safe and ecologically sound as they can make it.
To this end we have decided to suspend PWG’s formal role for the foreseeable future as there is nothing ‘area wide’ that requires this level of coordination.
Thanks to the generosity of those who financially supported our efforts through direct donations and shop collections, PWG winds up with a bank balance of £1,194 which has been donated to the North West Air Ambulance. Hopefully none of us will require their wonderful services but it’s reassuring to us all, on both sides of the river, that they are there should we need them.
In closing can we thank each and every one for their sustained support; we couldn’t have achieved what we did without you.
Too many to mention individually but we would like to commend Howard Phillips who was the group’s geologist and literally put hundreds, if not thousands of hours into the interpretation and understanding of the very complex geological reports resulting in a series of challenges, reports and presentations at the Public Inquiries to the Planning Inspectorate.
Also MP Ben Wallace’s sustained opposition to the scheme where he campaigned tirelessly to people and places we didn’t have immediate access to and to June & Darrell Jackson in Stalmine for their detailed current and historic knowledge of the Preesall salt field which added greatly to our understanding of the threats posed by the scheme.
Will the gas storage scheme ever come to fruition or will the development in Shale Gas become a more attractive investment? Who knows, but if nothing else came of it, it has shown all of us that we can come together as a community to work for a common good irrespective of our location or politics.
Ian Mulroy - Chair PWG
The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) has granted Halite Energy
Limited permission to develop the proposed Underground Gas Storage scheme
in Preesall (Over Wyre), Lancashire