A gaping crack has opened up between the city’s Tory MP and his Labour rival over the controversial issue of fracking for underground gas.
In contrast, sitting MP Stephen Mosley believes fracking “has a role to play” as part of the UK energy mix but won’t say if he’s happy with the Upton location.
Labour’s Mr Matheson sides with those who fear the exploratory drill in Duttons Lane may lead to an industrial scale operation to extract methane from the coalbed or shale layers. A protest camp has even been set up on site in a bid to stop IGas erecting its rig because of long term concerns over air and water contamination as well as earth tremors.
Mr Matheson said: “It may be acceptable in the wide open spaces and deserts of Texas or the Australian outback. But this is prime Cheshire farmland just a few hundred yards from houses and schools. It can’t be right.
“I don’t believe claims that, as in the USA, fracking will bring abundant cheap energy.”
Mr Matheson is against fracking anywhere in the UK, which is out of step with his party’s national policy of cautious support.
He claims the Tories aim to make it easier to frack without local planning permission and says Labour wants “tough new environmental and engineering controls”.
He added: “Our weather is getting more extreme. We saw more terrible flooding last winter, including on parts of the River Dee. We must take action to protect our environment and we need more renewable energy sources.”
The city MP hit back saying it was ‘disgusting’ the last Labour government sold licences allowing companies to search for gas without any public consultation.
He added: “I think fracking has got a role to play in our future energy production but it has got to be in the right place.”
Mr Mosley doesn’t believe fracking should be in urban areas but says each case should be considered on its own merits and was unwilling to take a stance on the Upton site. If a proposal to frack there came forward then he would base his position on the evidence.