Anti-fracking opponents threw a Valentine's Day party with a difference to celebrate an energy company pulling out of two sites earmarked as test drill sites for coal bed methane (CBM) exploration.
There was no love lost for IGas even though the firm recently announced it was no longer pursuing sites in Salters Lane, Mickle Trafford or Duttons Lane, Upton – where a long-standing protest camp was recently evicted.
But there was lots of love among residents, campaigners and councillors who attended the ‘Bye Bye IGas Celebration Party’ in Upton British Legion, Heath Road, where musical entertainment, food and drink was on offer.
Anti-frackers had feared exploratory test drilling may have led to a full scale fracking operation with concerns about air and water pollution as well as earthquakes and the impact on nearby house prices.
But IGas pulled out saying seismic testing results led to the conclusion both sites did not meet its criteria for commercial CBM development.
Labour Cllr Matt Bryan, who represents Upton on Cheshire West and Chester Council, said the IGas decision was a victory but there was no room for complacency.
He said: “Today is a celebration, a coming together of the local communities, to celebrate the community win which has meant IGas won’t be drilling in this area, not for coal bed methane any way.”
However, IGas leaflets have been distributed to residents in the last few days with Cllr Bryan left wondering if the energy firm is now targeting shale gas which lies deeper underground.
He added: “We are apprehensive and we do realise that IGas probably will return with an agenda which is a bit clearer, which probably will be shale, as per the information leaflets they are distributing to the community.”
Cllr Bryan, who lives in Kings Crescent West, was among nine protesters arrested on the day of the eviction and must appear before magistrates at the end of the month charged with obstructing/resisting a constable in the execution of their duty.
Meanwhile, anti-frackers intend to remain at a new mini protest camp near Lower Kinnerton until IGas confirms the land has been abandoned as a potential coal bed methane site. Campaigners wrote to IGas on February 1 seeking assurances the Lesters Lane site was no longer being pursued. The company subsequently announced it was abandoning the sites in Upton and Mickle Trafford.
A response is awaited but in a statement released to The Chronicle the company said ‘activity at other sites had yet to be determined’.