Anti-fracking campaigners are inviting everyone to their ‘Bye Bye IGas Celebration Party’ after the energy company announced it won't be test drilling for coal bed methane (CBM) in Upton or Mickle Trafford.
The ‘bring and share’ party will take place at the pavilion, Wealstone Lane, Upton, from 2.30pm to 5.30pm on Sunday which is also Valentine’s Day (February 14).
A spokesperson said: “Everybody is welcome, no tickets, free entry, just turn up on the day. Please bring food and drink to share if possible.”
In a shock announcement, IGas said on Friday that as a result of seismic testing carried out last autumn it had decided its sites at Duttons Lane, Upton and Salters Lane, Mickle Trafford, did ‘not meet its criteria for commercial CBM development’.
The news came just over three weeks after the protest camp at Upton, established in April 2014, was cleared by High Court bailiffs supported by a £200,000 policing operation.
With respect to other potential sites in Cheshire, IGas has since clarified that ‘activity at other sites has yet to be determined’.
Campaigners fear exploratory drilling may lead to full scale fracking with concerns around the impact on the environment and nearby house prices. For the time-being they are celebrating while remaining vigilant.
Jayne Worther, of the Frack Free Dee Coalition, said: “Tireless community organising and campaigns, the occupation of the Duttons Lane planned drill site in addition to the support from the national anti-fracking movement has led to the current situation where there is no social licence for IGas to drill in Chester for CBM or shale.
“Interestingly IGas used the same statement following the immense opposition from Frack Free Dudleston (in Shropshire) who, again, worked tirelessly as a community to raise awareness to IGas’ intentions for their community.
“We are all ecstatic that local residents and activists’ collective hard work has paid off and IGas have announced they will abandon the Upton and Mickle Trafford sites. However, we will not become complacent and plan further awareness meetings across the borough and are aware that INEOS recently acquired PEDL licences in Cheshire West and Cheshire East for unconventional gas exploration/extraction.”
Richard Greason of Frack Free Upton echoed these sentiments.
He said: “It is fantastic that IGas have said they won’t drill for coal bed methane under the current planning permission and that must have been influenced by the immense pressure and constant publicity that our campaigning has achieved.
“However, they haven’t mentioned shale or future planning applications. A leaked letter published in the Telegraph on 30th Jan shows the Government are considering taking planning decisions away from local councils altogether so IGas could well be coming back if or when that goes through.”
Chris Jenkins of Frack Free Mickle Trafford urged everyone to keep up the ‘amazing campaigning work’, not just locally but nationally as well.
He said: “Frack Free Mickle Trafford (FFMT) very much welcomes the IGas decision not to proceed with drilling at the Salters Lane site. At the same time we recognise that many other communities throughout Cheshire and the surrounding areas still remain under the threat of unconventional gas extraction and we stand strongly in support of their community fight back.”
Questions remain over planning system
Chris said FFMT was ‘incredulous’ the Mickle Trafford test drill site development was permitted without community consultation, adding: “We believe that many questions in the planning process remain unanswered.”
He said evidence his group provided to a working group set up by Cheshire West and Chester Council had demonstrated the ‘risks and impacts to our community in terms of the environment, health and traffic were unacceptable.”