PLANNERS are expected to give their blessing to plans for a massive gas storage plant in the Mid Cheshire countryside.
Members of Vale Royal Borough Council's planning committee met last night to consider proposals by Ineos Enterprises to open a 28-cavity store and compression station at Stublach Grange Farm between Lach Dennis and Byley.
The company is seeking permission to drill boreholes, lay water and brine pipelines and the controlled solution-mining of rock salt to create up to 28 underground cavities for the storage of natural gas.
It is also seeking the necessary hazardous substance consent to store natural gas in the chambers - bosses say Cheshire's geology makes it one of the few places in the UK suitable for storage.
Members of Vale Royal Borough Council's planning committee discussed the application last night and were invited to send their comments to Cheshire County Council which will have the final say on the proposals.
A report to planners stated: 'The proposal is a significant development that will have an impact locally both during the construction phase in terms of noise and traffic movements, and visually through earth movements to create access roads and lay pipes and the construction of the Stublach Grange complex of buildings.
'The impacts, however, should only be short-lived, and with appropriate mitigation the impacts can be minimised.
'The principle of the development is somewhat controversial, as the proposed complex is a substantial development in the open countryside and the county will need to be totally convinced by the need
for the above ground development before any permission is granted.'
The site is between Lach Dennis and Byley, not far from a second smaller gas storage plant, for E.ON UK, which is currently under construction.
Members of Residents Against the Plant, who objected to the Byley plant, said the Stublach development would 'despoil rural England and bring unknown and unquantifiable risk to the people of Cheshire.'
If approved, the Stublach facility could be up and running by 2009.
The report to councillors looked at the following issues: Ecology: Studies have not revealed the presence of any protected species. While some hedgerows would be lost, existing ones would be gapped up and new ones planted.
In the long term, the site has more potential opportunities for bio-diversity than the current site.
Visual impact: This is perhaps one of the areas of greatest concern. While much will have minimal impact, the main facilities at Stublach Grange will have a more significant impact.
Buildings and structures will cover some 3.4 hectares, considerably more than the existing farm. While some will be less than 4m tall, hence easy to screen, a number will be 8m and there are three stacks measuring 18m to 20m.
Transport impact: Access is proposed from the A530, avoiding the need to travel along rural roads. During construction, the most extra traffic will be 30 HGV, 40 van, 75 car and 10 minibus trips per day.
Noise and vibration: The proposals will not, apart from some exceptions, generate any noise levels that will cause disturbance to local residents.
Health and safety: The proposals are a proven method of gas storage, 400m or more below ground under agricultural land well away from housing. The project will be regulated by the Health and Safety Executive.