Anti-fracking group move onto Upton test drilling site


Staff reporter (Chester First)

ABOUT 40 anti-fracking campaigners have set up a permanent campsite blocking the entrance to a test drilling site in Chester.

Twenty campaigners entered the site on Duttons Lane, Upton, on Saturday and set up a barricaded campsite to try to stop Dart Energy from test drilling for coal bed methane at the site.

Dart Energy has a licence to explore for coal bed methane at two Cheshire sites, one in Farndon and the other in Upton, but campaigners are trying to stop the test in Upton by blockading the site entrance. The campaigners claim the test site is potentially dangerous because it is too close to houses, Upton High School and Chester Zoo, it could cause environmental damage.

Campaigner, Anna Smith, said: “We are here to highlight that there are alternatives to extreme energy extraction and the destruction of our environment. This is the first time in the UK that campaigners have managed to get to a site before an exploration company but it will not be the last.

“We aim to open up this land for community use. We are working with the local groups to create an open and accessible space that is free for everybody to use. In the next few days we will be putting up a list of events and workshops that will be held over the school holidays.”

Local resident and former plastics industry worker Mike Barnes, of St James Avenue, Upton, who was visiting the site, said he was most concerned about the safety of locals and about drilling underneath the school.

He said: “Safety is the major concern for me. There has been enough problems in the USA for it not to go ahead. If they want to develop the technology then they should do it away from where people live.

“There has been explosions in the US and the water table gets contaminated.

“I come from a heavy industry background and have been on both sides of these kinds of arguements before but this is dangerous. Methane is also highly explosive and contributes to global warming more than carbon does.

“There is also a large high school nearby. They will want to frack underneath that school, how can you possibly justify it?”

The site has been set up by national campaigners and a local protest group, Frack Free Upton, who have around 550 members in Chester all opposed to this type of gas extraction.

Matt Bryan, of Hoole Road, Hoole, and part of the Frack Free Upton campaign, who is staying at the site for half the week, feared house prices would fall if fracking went ahead.

He said: “There have been a lot of locals down but also people from Liverpool, Manchester and the Wirral and other parts of Cheshire because people realise it is an issue which affects the whole of the UK.

“Obviously there are huge environmental impacts this can have but it will also affect house prices locally. Studies in the US show house prices falling by 30 per cent and people can’t get home insurance on their homes.”

Peter Benson, of Brassey Street, Boughton, of Chester Friends of the Earth, said: “The bigger picture is that it will only give a few years of gas. To use the gas we will have to build more power stations which have a life span of 50 years. That means we have to import gas for the life of the power station.

“The more we invest in low energy technology the cheaper it gets. We do not have to reduce our standard of living when we reduce our carbon emissions.”

Another visitor to the site, local resident Christine Damiao, said: “I was so glad to hear that people have come to help in our campaign, I came straight down to thank them for their support. Dart Energy have attempted to sneak in to Chester without any real public consultation – if they had they would know that we do not want this climate destroying industry, not here or anywhere in the UK.”

The campaigners say they don’t have a time limit to how long they will stay on the site but will fight to keep Chester “frack free”.

At the time of going to press Dart Energy had not released a statement on the issue when asked.

See full story in the Chester Leader

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