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Chester University invites Green Party leader to see renewable energy research in action

Vice chancellor blames press for article in which high profile critic attacked fracking centre plan

Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley and University of Chester vice chancellor Tim Wheeler

University of Chester vice chancellor Tim Wheeler has responded to Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley after he urged the university to back renewables instead of a controversial fracking research centre.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) is consulting the public prior to submitting a planning application for the facility whose focus will be investigating shale gas and carbon capture.

Talks are ongoing to locate the centre at the university’s Thornton Science Park.

Environmentalists fear water and air contamination and earthquakes linked to the shale gas extraction method known as fracking leading to huge protests in areas like Cheshire being targeted by the energy companies.

Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley

Green Party co-leader Mr Bartley said ‘research pioneers of the future’ should be investing in renewable energy technology instead of taking the risk of building what could be ‘a white elephant’.

Professor Wheeler has now invited Mr Bartley to visit Thornton and see ‘some of the remarkable work in renewables’ in which Thornton is already engaged and to speak to students.

He said: “It is regrettable that the press reporting in this area is selective and I am delighted to have the opportunity to start redressing the balance.

"The University of Chester is in discussions with the BGS and NERC, but I can assure you that this is in terms of being a catalyst for discussion, challenge and objective scientific enquiry, resulting in a definitive evidence base, consistent with our mission as a university.”

He added: “Your hope that the university would ‘create a renewable energy centre’ is already being realised.”

Among the current pioneering investments in environmental research were a new multi million pound energy centre and fuel cell labs as well as the installation of more than £1 million worth of photovoltaic cells on buildings.

Professor Tim Wheeler, Vice Chancellor and Principal, University of Chester(Image: Ian Cooper)

Professor Wheeler added: “We are currently nurturing SME development in renewables, including working with specialists to create the technology to produce biogases. Leading work is underway at the university’s Thornton Science Park in the field of sustainable local energy zones and facilitating the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy, for example, partnerships with the Cheshire Energy Hub and Hydrogen Hub, among others.

“The University of Chester also encourages and supports its students in becoming active participants in carbon reduction, which has won national recognition.

“As part of its commitment to encouraging the free exchange of views, the university has hosted open debates on the subject of ‘fracking’ to enable understanding of its true impacts and effects.”

The fracking research centre has been commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK’s main agency for funding environmental sciences, and is being delivered by the BGS.

BGS will be holding community meetings in October, November and December for residents to find out more. British Geological Survey scientists will be available to speak about the project, answer questions, discuss the science objectives and what the investment could mean for the area.

Join the BGS on Wednesday, October 11 at:

Elton Village Hall - 10am to 12pm

■ Thornton Church Hall - 6pm to 8pm

The BGS will also be available in community locations in Chester, Dunham, Frodsham, Hapsford, Helsby and Ince throughout the autumn. Dates and times will be confirmed and advertised locally. Full details will also be on the BGS website.

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