ELLESMERE Port and Neston MP Justin Madders has called on the man responsible for deciding whether a controversial shale gas test well should be permitted in the town to reject the plans.

Mr Madders has sent a letter to James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, who now has the say on whether an appeal by IGas to flow a test well in Ellesmere Port can be approved.

IGas had previously appealed against a decision by Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) to refuse it permission to test for shale gas in the town.

The firm had wanted to flow test its Portside well, to find out whether the rock formations in the area produce gas or oil.

Mr Madders cites the inquiry held earlier this year at Chester Town Hall, which looked at the pros and cons of the scheme in great detail, and in the letter has explained: "The inquiry identified many reasons why this application should be rejected."

The inquiry's inspector was expected to make a final decision, but the Secretary of State since intervened and is due to make a decision on the application, although there is no fixed timescale for doing so.

In his letter, Mr Madders highlighted safety concerns and the effect the well would have on the environment, saying it would create gases equivalent to 21,345 tonnes of CO2 – the same as the whole of CWaC's operations for a year, or the same as driving a family car 210 million km, or more than 5,000 times around the centre of the earth.

He added: "The proposed site is 320 metres from a high-density residential area, which will be developed to within 250m of the well; has constrained access for emergency vehicles in the event of a well blowout or accident...[and] is within 100 metres of six local businesses and about 200 metres from an explosives store."

Mr Madders continued: "The proposed site is 1km from Rivacre Brook – the bed of this brook contains uranium spilt from the local nuclear facility, and events that disturb and so re-suspend the uranium into the water could be significant locally.

"[It] is 4.5 km from a nuclear site which has strict seismic criteria in its nuclear licence.

"Failure of the well could have a major impact on local residents, businesses and their employees, and I understand no plan has been made for the safe evacuation of local residents or employees in the event of a blowout of the well.

"The proposed site is also within the 'Cheshire Science Corridor', a hi-tech science hub for national and international research facilities and businesses, where the Local Enterprise Partnership is seeking to attract 20,000 hi-tech jobs into the area.

"The development of an extractive industry amid this development may deter investors looking to be part of a high-tech, green growth cluster.

"Therefore, it is my strong belief that neither exploration and production should be considered as a possibility at this location.

"Fundamentally, though, my strongest objection is that such developments are inconsistent with our shared aim to combat climate change.

"The recent Climate Change Commission report highlighted the urgent need to reduce our CO2 emissions. Subsequently the local council has established a state of Climate Emergency and is working hard to reduce CO2eq emissions across the borough.

"This development does not comply with the Paris Climate Agreement, nor the UK’s carbon budget. It is estimated that this application will contribute 21,345 t CO2eq to global warming in the short term - about the same as the whole of the local council’s operations for one year, or the same as driving a family car 210,000,000 km.

"The approval of this application would therefore make it much harder for our local council and local people to fulfil their ambitions for carbon reduction.

"In view of all of these considerations, I therefore urge you to reject this application."

In a previous interview with The Standard, IGas’s well engineering director said: “I think there is a lot of misinformation that we’re going to do some hydraulic fracturing there. We’re not.

"There’s no hydraulic fracturing planned at that site. It’s a normal well test. We’ll run into an already drilled well, we’ll perforate a zone of interest and we’ll see whether it flows gas or oil.”

A spokesman for IGas added: "87 per cent of households in Chester West and Cheshire are connected to the gas grid, relying on it to heat their homes and cook with. There are also a number of significant employers in the wider area whose businesses rely on gas, which is something that IGas could potentially supply in the future.

"Every major forecast says that we'll still need gas into the 2050s. If we don't develop our own homegrown resource, nearly three quarters of our supply will be imported by 2035, which will be environmentally more impactful than producing it here in the UK."