Council planning chiefs have rejected an energy firm's application to test for shale gas in Ellesmere Port – signalling a major victory for anti-fracking campaigners.
The Frack Free Dee coalition welcomed the "great decision" made by Cheshire West and Chester Council's planning committee at a special meeting held this afternoon.
Energy company IGas – who have said they are “very disappointed” by the outcome and are considering an appeal – had wanted to 'flow test' their Portside well, to find out whether the rock formations in the area produce gas or oil.
But following a 90-minute meeting when a string of objections were heard from members of the public and councillors, the committee voted overwhelmingly (by 10 votes to one) in favour of refusing the plans.
There were loud cheers from the floor following the vote.
A statement issued to The Standard by the Frack Free Dee Coalition, who staged a peaceful protest in Chester prior to today’s meeting at council HQ, read: "This great decision shows that our council and hopefully our country is waking up to the serious faults and dangers of this type of gas extraction. We need instead to be concentrating on renewable and sustainable energy, to save our climate from the catastrophic effects of climate change. This is the benefit of our children and future generations."
The application, which had been recommended for approval, made no reference to fracking. But campaigners said the tests would help pave the way for the controversial process, which involves fracturing underground rocks to release gas, to take place in the area.
Several councillors echoed their concerns.
Cllr Pat Merrick said: "The people of the Port are sick of being used as a dumping ground for Cheshire, and perhaps now the rest of the country...
"Ellesmere Port has had enough. We do not want fracking or shale gas extraction - call it whatever you want. We are a highly populated country and the proximity of this to our homes is not acceptable."
Objections were raised over a number of points, including the 'visual impact' of the project, a build-up of HGV traffic and its proximity to residents, the M53, Mersey estuary, Manchester Ship Canal and other industries in the town. The well is located in Ellesmere Port's dockland area, close to the National Waterways Museum.
John Blaymires, chief operating officer at IGas, said: “We are very disappointed by the committee decision that goes against the recommendation of their Planning Officer and is an application that accords with both national and local planning policy as set out in the planning statement and also has the necessary environmental permits in place.
“This area of Cheshire in particular employs a significant number of people who work in businesses who rely on gas – not just as a source of power, but also as a raw material for fertilisers and chemicals.
“We will now take time to consider our options including our right to bring forward an appeal.”
Campaigners say the fight goes on, as they are also opposing plans by IGas to frack for shale gas at a site on Ince Marshes.