PROTESTERS have attacked the bosses of an energy giant amid claims executives have lobbied Cabinet ministers to win support for plans to build a gas plant near Middlewich.
Action group Residents Against the Plant (RAP) has written to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to find out if the claims made in a national newspaper this week are true and, if so, to demand RAP's own meeting with the Secretary of State.
RAP spokesman John Edwards said: 'The first we heard about it was in a report in The Guardian.
'It was reported that ScottishPower has attempted to lobby senior Cabinet ministers to back its appeal for a gas plant at Byley.
'It is disgraceful. There was a full and frank public inquiry in which all parties concerned were given every opportunity to have their say.
'It was the model of fairness and the perfect way for everyone to state their case.
'Given that opportunity, we think it is outrageous that the company is apparently seeking to influence ministers in their decision.
'We have written to John Prescott and Energy Minister Patricia Hewitt to ask if ScottishPower has contacted them. If it has, we are going to demand a meeting of our own.'
Mr Edwards added: 'The inspector has completed his report and that rests with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. There is still no decision yet and we have a feeling that Scottish-Power is getting nervous.
'Maybe it has heard things are looking bleak for it and is getting desperate. If its proposals for a gas plant are turned down, the company stands to lose an awful lot of money.'
The Guardian article stated that ScottishPower 'is trying to enlist the support of senior Cabinet ministers to overcome local resistance to its plans to build a £100m gas storage plant in rural Cheshire.'
ScottishPower refused to comment on the article and a spokesman would only say: 'We are just waiting on the outcome of the public inquiry.'
The company wants to store North Sea gas under the disused RAF Cranage airfield.
After the plans were refused by Cheshire County Council, following a wave of protests from people living in Byley, Middlewich and the surrounding area, the company appealed and a public inquiry was eventually held in 2002.
Planning inspector Robert Lyon, who presided over the inquiry, has completed his report and the final decision now rests with Mr Prescott and Mrs Hewitt.
A spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said the Government was no closer to making a decision on the matter.
He said: 'I can confirm the ministers are still considering the case.'