Campaigners have slammed a decision which means a controversial bid to store millions of tonnes of gas under the Wyre countryside will be considered yet again.
Halite Energy’s plans to carve out 19 salt caverns to store gas beneath the River Wyre were initially rejected by Energy Secretary Ed Davey in April last year.
But, following a Judicial Review, that decision has been quashed by a High Court judge and the Government’s Department for Energy and Climate Change will have to reconsider the application.
Ian Mulroy, chairman of the Protect Wyre Group which has campaigned against the plans for the past decade over fears the scheme will damage the local environment, said: “We are disappointed, but it should be noted the judge has not granted planning permission.
“She has simply asked the Secretary of State to review it again, and we await further news.”
Halite’s application had been recommended for approval by the Planning Inspectorate, but only on the basis it provided the required geological information.
However, the Secretary of State rejected the scheme – the fourth attempt to gain planning permission – due to insufficient geological data.
In court, Halite attacked the Government’s decision to reject the application as “irrational and perverse” and Mrs Justice Paterson agreed it had not been fairly treated.
Ordering a full reconsideration of Halite’s planning application, the judge, sitting in London, said too high a ‘threshold’ had been imposed on the company when it came to assessing the viability of the project and the geological challenges it faced.
Coun Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Council, added: “I find that ridiculous because that’s one of the main issues.
“Before Mr Davey’s decision there wasn’t sufficient information and you have to know what the geology of the area is to ascertain if it’s safe.
“I would urge Mr Davey to look at the judgement, but clearly I support his first decision. Once he looks at the decision he will stick to his judgement, and on the geological information come to the same decision he did before.”
Anti-gas storage campaigner June Jackson, from Stalmine, added: “I’m very disappointed with this (High Court ruling).
“The Secretary of State will have to look at it again but that doesn’t mean to say he will not come to the same conclusion.
“A legal option can go many different ways and all we can do is wait and see what the Secretary of State comes up with when he considers it all.”
The residents of Over Wyre have fought gas storage plans for more than a decade – first against Canatxx and now Halite.
A statement from Halite Energy Group said: “The High Court has upheld our legal challenge on all grounds.
“The Board of Halite Energy Group will be working with its legal and planning advisers and look forward to participating in the process that will lead to a redetermination of our application by the Secretary of State.”
A spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said: “We are disappointed.
“We are currently considering the options and way forward in light of the judgment.”