RESIDENTS fighting plans to build a massive substation the size of three rugby pitches on their doorsteps have received a boost after developers admitted they were looking elsewhere.
The Substation Action Group has fought the plans ever since Network Rail and the National Grid announced they were hoping to build the substation and a trackside feeder station on the Green Belt between Acton Bridge and Weaverham.
The application is unlikely to come before Vale Royal's planning committee for another two or three months, but planning chiefs are believed to have a number of concerns over the proposals which they would like to be addressed first. One is whether the chosen location for the substation is the most suitable.
Network Rail and National Grid say that the development is necessary to meet the Strategic Rail Authority's requirement to increase capacity on the West Coast Main Line.
But despite claiming the site between Acton Bridge and Weaverham was their preferred choice, the two companies have admitted they are looking at expanding an existing site at Frod-sham instead.
A spokesman for the developers said: 'Network Rail and National Grid are undertaking further studies to re-investigate the technical, environmental and economic feasibility of providing the electricity supply required for the upgrade of the West Coast Main Line from Frodsham substation.
'Planning applications were submitted to Vale Royal Borough Council in December 2003 seeking permission to construct a substation in Acton Bridge and a trackside feeder station close to the rail line in Weaverham.
'Representatives from Network Rail and National Grid have met with Vale Royal Borough Council planning officers and committee members to brief them on the proposal and the consultations undertaken with residents.
'Further information concerning the feasibility of providing a connection from Frodsham substation will be available when investigations are complete.'
SAG spokesman Steve Pardoe, who is also an Acton Bridge parish councillor, said he welcomed the 'interesting' development.
He also claimed that the farmers who own the land near the proposed development are fearing for their livelihood if they were forced to sell land - with a series of compulsory purchase orders likely to be put into force.
He said: 'There are two farmers who would have to sell some of their land for this substation.
'They are concerned as they do not want to sell their field for this substation. One says he is opposed to it as it is one of his best fields that he would be forced to sell.' Mr Pardoe said the fact that the proposed site is Green Belt land should not be overlooked.
He said: 'As a parish council we are always saying that residents can't have a fence or a shed in their garden as it is on Green Belt land yet, if this goes through it will be an absolutely massive development on our Green Belt.
'It will be difficult for the local authority to have any credibility if it allows it to go through.'