Headteacher’s fears over gas test drill site

Paula Dixon speaks out on methane extraction proposals

Ian Cooper Upton-by-Chester High School headteacher Paula Dixon has concerns about an exploratory gas borehole on a farmer's field near the school
Upton-by-Chester High School headteacher Paula Dixon has concerns about an exploratory gas borehole on a farmer's field near the school

A headteacher fears for her students’ health after the Environment Agency issued a permit for the management of non-hazardous waste and waste gas from an exploratory methane borehole just 600 metres from her school.

Paula Dixon, head of Upton-by-Chester High School, is particularly worried if Dart Energy decides a full scale coalbed methane (CBM) extraction operation is viable on fields off Duttons Lane although this would require a separate set of permissions.

Mrs Dixon, whose school has a Green Flag environmental award, said: “It’s the potential impact on the school and the community – potential noise pollution, air pollution. We have got our playing fields where the students are outdoors a lot of the year round and it’s the impact on health.

“They say ‘Oh no, it’s not fracking’ but I think it could potentially be that. You don’t want to be a scaremonger but it could be the start of something potentially unpleasant for the community.”

Environmentalists claim the chemicals in CBM extraction can be just as toxic as those used in the controversial ‘fracking’ process – more commonly associated with the exploitation of shale gas – with the potential for spills and leaks.

And because CBM occurs much closer to the surface than fracking it is even more likely methane will migrate to the surface.

Mrs Dixon is also concerned about extra lorries on local roads because the test drill alone will require 15 vehicle movements per day.

“It’s the A41, it’s a very busy road any way. It goes right past the school and I’m just concerned that the increase in the traffic, the noise from the traffic, the pollution from the traffic, right next to our playing fields, is something we don’t want.”

The headteacher, whose governors oppose the drilling operation, has learned the test drill was previously been given planning permission by Cheshire West and Chester Council with no objections.

“If you try and get your conservatory or your greenhouse or whatever built in your back garden you’ve got to go through all sorts of procedures and regulations and hoops before you can get permission whereas something like the drill for the borehole seems to have gone through under the radar.”

She said relying on fossil fuels with the potential impact on climate change went “completely” against the school’s eco-policy promoting sustainable living. Mrs Dixon said locals also valued the green fields which the drill site would damage.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We are satisfied that the conditions of the permit will protect people and the environment.

“As part of our consultation to determine this application we considered the views of a wide range of people and organisations. This included Public Health England, which raised no objections regarding risk to health of local people.”

The EA said the permit issued only related to the waste generated and would not authorise the drilling itself.

 

 

 
comments powered by Disqus

Journalists

David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Reporter
Carmella de Lucia
Reporter
Rachel Flint
Reporter
Contact Us
Full contact details