Mixed views over Halite gas plans in Wyre

The Preesall site where Halite - formally Canatxx - hopes to build a gas storage facility
The Preesall site where Halite - formally Canatxx - hopes to build a gas storage facility

New fears over revived plans for a huge gas storage site in Wyre have been raised ahead of a town council debate on the controversial proposals tonight.

Fleetwood councillors are split over energy firm Halite’s long-running plans to carve out 19 salt caverns under the River Wyre at Preesall.

The town council has until May 9 to comment on points made by a High Court judge, who earlier this year overturned a Government decision to reject the plans following an appeal by Halite.

It means the Government now has to reconsider the plans.

And several Fleetwood councillors, members John Warnock and Bill Barrow, have today called for Halite to listen to the views of residents and give up on the plans, which had been rejected four times before the judge quashed the decision made by the Secretary of State.

Coun John Warnock said: “In the beginning we voted that we did not support it as a council.

“I think that viewpoint is still the same. I really wish it wouldn’t go ahead.”

He also raised concerns that if both Halite’s gas storage plans and fracking were given the green light on the Fylde coast, it could create unforeseen safety issues due to the close proximity of the two.

But despite strong opposition from some corners, other councillors have come out in support of the plans.

Before the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) dropped its appeal over the High Court ruling, dozens of businesses wrote in favour of proposals on the grounds it would create jobs in the area.

Coun Ivor Bould said: “One thing we have to be careful of is where do we get the gas from?

“If this is going to help us reduce the cost of fuel we have to consider it.

“I would go for it personally, as long as residents are kept properly informed.

“If it is done properly and safely I am for it.”

However, Coun Paul Treece-Birch said he was not aware of any residents in favour of the plans.

He said: “It is a shame they keep coming back. Maybe it’s about time Halite got the message and went away.”

American firm Canatxx had its plans to store gas under Preesall turned down three times before the company was replaced by Halite.

It then submitted a fourth bid that was rejected by the Secretary of State last year, only to be quashed following a judicial review that found the threshold used to judge the viability of the project was too high.

That decision now means the Government must consider the application again.

Coun Bill Barrow said he was concerned about the safety of storing gas in under-ground caverns.

He added: “I think the general consensus is they should go away.

“But they keep coming back and it’s a case of wearing us down.

“People are still concerned about what they are proposing – I don’t think they have changed their opinion.”

But town council chairman Alan Marsh warned the decision should be left to the experts.

Any responses to the application will be taken into account by the Secretary of State before a fresh decision is made over the plans.

Following the DECC’s decision to withdraw an appeal over the High Court ruling, Halite chief executive Keith Budinger said the plans would have to be re-evaluated.

He said: “DECC is still considering the procedure which it will require for the redetermination.

“Halite will cooperate with DECC in following the process to allow for a timely redetermination.”

The issue is on the agenda to be discussed at tonight’s town council meeting, which starts at 7pm at the North Euston Hotel on the Esplanade.

Members of the public can attend.

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