Campaigners celebrating after controversial plans to store gas under the Wyre countryside were thrown out today said they hoped the scheme had been killed off for good.
Halite Energy Group had submitted plans to carve out 19 caverns in the salt strata beneath Preesall to store 900 million cubic metres of natural gas.
But the firm, which replaced the American gas storage operation Canatxx, has been prevented from going ahead with the plans by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) because the project ‘failed to demonstrate the suitability of the site’s geology’.
Residents, who have battled the various applications for a decade, insisted the land was simply not suitable for gas storage.
The plan was also opposed by Wyre Council and Lancashire County Council, which submitted a report saying the development would damage the rural and coastal landscape.
And yesterday campaigners’ hopes were realised when a DECC spokesman said: “After carefully weighing up the evidence for a storage site at Preesall, DECC has taken the decision to refuse the application. The refusal is due to a specific issue – the application failed to demonstrate the suitability of the site’s geology for salt cavern storage.”
This was the fourth application – three by Canatxx, one by Halite – to be rejected.
Although the company has six weeks to appeal the decision, campaigners behind the 10-year fight now hope they have seen the last of the proposals.
June Jackson, a Stalmine farmer and campaigner, added: “I’m extremely relieved with the decision.
“I had a sleepless night on Monday, but at last, we’ve got the right results.
“This is what we’ve been saying all the time, that they don’t have enough geological information to prove it’s suitable.
“They’ve got six weeks to appeal so we have just got to keep our fingers crossed, but I’m very pleased about the way things have gone and it would be nice to have an end to it all.”
Ian Mulroy, chairman of Protect Wyre Group, said: “It is obviously a great result for the residents of Wyre.
“The Protect Wyre Group has maintained for the last 10 years the site was unsuitable for gas storage and Canatxx and then Halite have notdone sufficient investigation to prove otherwise.”
Margaret Daniels, chairman of Fleetwood Civic Society, added: “I think this is absolutely brilliant news and local people can be proud of themselves and the part they have played in making sure their views were heard.
“It will be a relief to all the people from Fleetwood and save an awful lot of the disruption that wouldn’t have done the town any good and it will put people’s minds at rest.”
Previous gas storage applications by Canatxx were refused on safety and environmental impact grounds.
THE DECADE-LONG FIGHT OVER WYRE COUNTRYSIDE
Gas storage timeline:
August 2002 - American energy giant Canatxx first reveals plans for gas storage caverns under land it has purchased at The Heads at Stalmine. Worried protestors begin a campaign against the proposals.
February 2003 - Protestors warn Canatxx’s plans are a “disaster in waiting”
April 2004 - Wyre Council planners unanimously reject the Canatxx plans
February 2005 - Campaigners travel to Brussels to appeal to the European Parliament in a bid to see new Canatxx plans blocked.
February 2005 - Wyre planners throw out Canatxx’s plans ‘in minutes’ after 10,000 objectors write to tell of their concerns
July 2005 - Lancashire County Council’s development control committee rejects the Canatxx application
October 2005 - A huge public inquiry held at the Marine Hall and North Euston Hotel in Fleetwood begins into the plans
December 2005 - During the inquiry, former health and safety executive engineer Alan Tyldsley told residents living close to the proposed Canatxx site they could “hide behind a caravan” in the event of a disaster.
May 2006 - The public inquiry ends, with campaigners told they will have to wait until October 2007 before the Government makes a decision
October 2007 - It is a resounding ‘no’ as Canatxx’s proposals are thrown out for good by then Secretary of State Hazel Blears, the third time they have been rejected.
July 2010 - Canatxx reforms as Halite and submits revised proposals for the site.
May 2012 - United Utilities reveals it fears the planned gas caverns could cause a devastating explosion on the Fylde coast.
June 2012 - Almost 11,000 people sign Protect Wyre’s petition opposing the plans.
October 2012 - The Planning Inspectorate hears the final arguments for and against the plans at a hearing in Fleetwood.
Yesterday - The Planning Inspectorate rejects Halite’s plans.