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Anti-fracking campaigners contemplate new protest camp at Bridge Trafford

Activists gear up for another fight after energy company buys field
Anti-fracking campaigners at the site in Bridge Trafford

Anti-fracking campaigners behind the Upton protest camp are considering setting up a successor camp at another site being targeted by the same energy company.

Star Energy Ltd, owned by IGas, has bought a field at Bridge Trafford for £141,000 sparking Facebook comments about the possibility of starting another camp on the land, not far from The Chester Fields pub and restaurant.

The previous camp at Duttons Lane, Upton, was cleared by bailiffs on January 12 but the company abandoned its test drill plans just three weeks later.

Related story: Upton anti-frackers plead not guilty to eviction day charges

IGas confirmed it has acquired the Bridge Trafford site, north of Warrington Road, to provide ‘an option’ but says any decision over gas exploration – and whether that would be for coal bed methane or shale gas – will come down to the results of seismic testing.

Dr Steven Peers, former resident of the Upton Protection Camp

Dr Steven Peers, who lived on the Upton camp, said: “The community protection camp will be setting up on the site to raise awareness in the community about the serious health implications of having fracking in the area. The recently restored otter population and close organic farming community face a life or death battle to keep this dangerous process out of the area. We will post when the camp is in place.”

Related story: Upton anti-fracking eviction: energy firm makes no offer to pay £200K policing costs

A ‘Bridge Trafford Community Protection Camp’ Facebook page was created in the past few days.

Anti-fracking campaigners worry about air and water pollution as well as earthquakes and the impact on nearby house prices.

Farmer and anti-fracking campaigner Huw Rowlands

Among them is farmer Huw Rowlands, who runs nearby The Grange Farm, Mickle Trafford, with his father David, where they rear traditional breed Red Poll cattle based on a philosophy of working ‘in harmony with nature’.

Huw is unhappy the site is so close to their land, a water borehole at Plemstall from which drinking water is extracted, the Gowy Landfill site sealed with toxic refuse near the River Gowy, two railway lines on embankments and a high pressure gas pipeline.

He said: “If you were looking for the worst possible place in terms of risks of environmental damage from a fracking operation, then I think they have found it.”

Emergency services gathered at the Duttons Lane camp, Upton, on the day of eviction(Image: David Holmes)

But IGas spokesman Gordon Grant said: “The industry has an excellent track record in relation to both health and safety and environment protection. The industry is regulated by a number of statutory bodies including the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive, the Oil and Gas Authority and the local minerals planning authority. In addition, the industry is governed by 14 separate pieces of European legislation.

Related story: Upton-by-Chester could be targeted for fracking after all

“At IGas, we place the highest priority on the protection of the environment, and we have been doing so onshore in the UK for over 30 years.”

Explaining that it was unclear what the future held for the Bridge Trafford site at this moment, he continued: “The 3D seismic survey we undertook across the region last year, to better understand the geology, is still being processed. The results, along with other survey work, will determine our future site selection and work programme in the area. Once this is known we will consult with the local community.”

Related story: Watch - Chester anti-frackers throw victory party

He said the company was ‘committed to acting openly and honestly with the local communities’. There was a strictly regulated planning, permitting and monitoring process prior to any potential operational activity.

Mr Grant concluded: “This is a critical time for the future of Britain’s energy mix as gas, of which 50% of our consumption is currently imported, is central to our energy security as we transition to a lower carbon environment.”

 

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