Halite set to carry out tests despite refusal

Anti gas storage campaigners who have been fighting the plans for a decade. Below: Preesall site where Halite plan to build the gas storage plant.
Anti gas storage campaigners who have been fighting the plans for a decade. Below: Preesall site where Halite plan to build the gas storage plant.
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Campaigners fighting plans to store millions of tonnes of gas under the River Wyre today branded the firm behind the controversial proposal ‘intolerable’.

It comes after Halite Energy announced it intends to carry out a series of seismic tests in Preesall next month – despite having its plans to store gas in salt caverns refused by the Government.

Preesall site where Halite plan to build the gas storage plant.

Preesall site where Halite plan to build the gas storage plant.

The move has angered residents who have been fighting the plans for a decade and today said ‘enough is enough’.

Wyre MP Ben Wallace said: “I urge Halite to stop this distressing saga. They are not wanted and the Planning Inspectorate has said their plans are flawed.

“I would totally urge Halite’s investors to give up on them and send them packing.”

And Coun Vivien Taylor, who represents Preesall on Wyre Council, spoke of the “arrogance” of the firm, which she said puts residents under “turmoil and stress”.

She said: “They just don’t know when to take no for an answer. I consider that they are just trying, once again, to put blight and misery onto the residents here by not accepting that no means no.

“Halite puts residents of the whole area under worry, turmoil and stress.”

Halite, which replaced the American gas storage operation Canatxx, announced in May it was seeking a judicial review into the Planning Inspectorate’s decision to reject its plans – which involved carving out 19 caverns in the salt strata beneath Preesall to store 900 million cubic metres of natural gas.

But even before the review is concluded, the firm is bringing in a leading geophysical contractor to carry out a seismic survey.

In a document sent to Stalmine Parish Council, seen by The Gazette, Halite says the seismic survey will comprise of a single small charge of an explosive energy source, loaded into holes drilled up to six meters into the ground.

The holes will be placed every 10 metres along eight survey lines.

Wyre Council leader, Coun Peter Gibson, described the disruption as “totally intolerable”.

He said: “It seems strange. Surely they should have done this survey the first time they put an application in. To leave it all these years is ridiculous.

“If they end up putting in another planning application I could understand it. I think it’s hypocritical of Halite, and Canatxx before them, to ignore the views of local people and carry on regardless.”

The survey of the Preesall salt fields will see the closure of Knott End Golf Club for 10 days during the works.

Halite says around 30 to 40 people would be on site carrying out the survey for around four weeks in August.

A spokesman for Halite, which has a team based in Kirkham, confirmed the golf club would have to close for a period of time. He said: “If Halite had got (planning) consent three or four months ago, it would have been required to carry out this survey anyway – it’s something we have to do as part of the process.

“We are hoping to use this time to carry out the work.”

The work will be undertaken by a team from Derbyshire-based TESLA Exploration International Ltd.

The spokesman added: “People living near to the site will be able to see the team, and they may be able to hear a muffled thud-like sound, which is just part of the normal process and would be no cause for concern.”

The gas storage plans were rejected by Wyre planners in April 2004, followed by Lancashire County Council’s development control committee in July 2005.

In October 2007 the proposals were thrown out by then secretary of state Hazel Blears and in April this year the Planning Inspectorate rejected Halite’s proposals.

Campaigner against the plans, June Jackson, from Stalmine, said: “It’s a strange time for them to be doing this while they are going along the route of the judicial review.

“One assumes they will be putting in yet another application.”

Ian Mulroy, chairman of Protect Wyre, said: “We are aware Halite’s application for a judicial review is still ongoing, but we would have expected the result of the judicial review to be known before anything further was done.”

A County Hall spokesman said: “We have received prior notification from Halite of their proposals to undertake a two dimensional survey.

“Works of this nature have the benefit of permitted development rights unless the County Council advises them that planning permission is required.”

Louise Freeman, general manager of Knott End Golf Club, said: “The club is going to have to close for 10 days from the beginning of August for health and safety reasons.

“All members have been notified.”

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