A CONTROVERSIAL gas storage company has been given the green light to start buying up land to build a pipeline which would slice through housing estates and public land.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has handed Halite Energy a certificate allowing them to construct an observation platform and a brine outfall pipeline running from Preesall to Rossall.
Despite this, the company has still not received the go ahead to pursue its main project of building 19 purpose-built underground caverns which will store 900 million cubic metres of gas under the Over Wyre countryside.
Despite that, the latest development has left many community groups fighting the scheme worried the new contract is the biggest sign yet the massive plan – currently being considered by the Planning Inspectorate – will go ahead.
Bob Boal, secretary of Fleetwood Development Partnership, said he was surprised Halite had applied for the certificate ahead of getting permission for its gas storage project.
He said: “The Fleetwood Development Partnership and Protect Wyre Group are still dead against gas storage.
“It will cause a lot of disruption and have a negative impact on Fleetwood, especially when we’ve just gone through the laying of the tramlines.
“It’s a compulsory order and it is surprising they have been given this when they haven’t had the go ahead from the Planning Inspectorate.
“The other side of this is the ecological damage. The brine is very strong solution and it would have an effect on wildlife.”
The pipeline’s primary use is to wash the brine solution out of the caverns and into the Irish Sea.
Beginning close to Knott End golf course, it would travel underneath the River Wyre, cut through Fleetwood nature reserve and across Amounderness Way before carving its way through fields at the back of Fleetwood Nautical College and following Westway on its way out to sea.
More than 10,000 objections to gas storage have been received from residents, included more than 4,000 by residents in Thornton and Cleveleys, 3,000 in Poulton, 2,000 in Fleetwood and around 320 in Blackpool.
Jane Littlewood, chairman of Rossall Beach Residents’ Association, says Halite has not consulted with them and the work will damage Rossall.
She said: “We haven’t had any contact at all from Halite and since this work is potentially going to be near to our area we would welcome the opportunity to be informed and comment.
“I have worked on projects and you would not know they were here now and in my naivety I thought that’s what would happen with Halite.
“I thought it would be disruptive when it was being built and would go away once it’s finished, but it’s not going to be like that.
“This could have a big effect on Rossall but it depends what’s being built and as to what kind of impact the brine discharge will have on the environment.”
The larger incarnation of the scheme – by previous company Canatxx – was thrown out by the Government in 2010 after a massive campaign by residents.
And Howard Phillips, vice chairman of Thornton Action Group and member of Protect Wyre Group, says Halite should have waited for the Planning Inspectorate’s decision before applying for permission.
He added: “They are trying to give the impression they’ve got it.
“In the past Canatxx thought they were going to get permission and they didn’t get it, so they are jumping the gun.”
Fleetwood resident Ian Johnson, a fellow member of the Protect Wyre Group, said the scheme would be damaging for the seas off the Fylde coast.
He added: “It’s going to affect a lot of people in the area and I believe the saline solution washed into Morecambe Bay would be extremely flawed.
“If we had any sort of fishing industry left we would turn the water into the Dead Sea.
“It’s going to worry a lot of people who are fighting against this and any landmark planning bid is going to unsettle a lot of people.”
Halite today moved to reassure residents and says the application is all part of their preparation procedure.
Chief executive Keith Budinger said: “It is important to emphasise this certificate does not impact on the decision on whether the development consent order itself will be issued for the project as a whole.
“That decision, which will confirm whether our proposal for an underground gas storage facility is acceptable, will be made separately by the Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and we anticipate his decision in April.
“Until then, we do not know whether the DCO will be granted, and we will continue with our pre-construction planning in the hope we are successful.”