Leader does U-turn over ‘no fracking’ promise
FRACKING may happen if it is ‘safe’ to do so according to the council leader in a dramatic U-turn.
Cheshire East leader Michael Jones was criticised when he announced last year that there would be no fracking in the borough.
Opponents said he was wrong to make this claim because the council would have to pass legitimate planning applications.
Now Coun Jones has made a U-turn on his position, saying that fracking – a process of drilling into shale rocks to release gas for energy – can happen if ‘safe and viable’, but Macclesfield will remain frack-free for now.
It comes after the government announced it will offer licences to explore for shale gas at 27 sites in northern England and the Midlands, for oil and gas companies to bid for later this year.
A further 132 are set to be awarded subject to further environmental assessment. This includes ten sites in Cheshire, but none in Macclesfield.
Coun Jones said: “The situation hasn’t changed. I was correct to make the statement I did because it’s about geothermal energy in Cheshire East and fracking is not viable.
“I’m not under any pressure whatsoever to allow fracking but we will allow it if it’s safe and viable.
“We have massive potential for geothermal energy in Cheshire East and that’s a game changer.
“To get shale gas you would have to drill down further and it would evaporate, so it’s not a viable option.
“We need to look at how can we get cheap energy for residents and geothermal is our greatest potential.”
Geothermal energy – taken from natural hot water stores underground – is available in large quantities in the Cheshire Basin, particularly around Crewe.
However there is potential for fracking nearby. A licence issued to Celtique Energie in 2008 to apply to frack between Chelford and Congleton was relinquished by the firm earlier this year.
Fracking is opposed by environmental groups which say it causes problems including earth tremors and water contamination.
Coun Jones said: “I can see people’s concerns over the underground process and we will look at those in any plan which comes forward.”
●● Fracking test sites such as this are not on the cards in Macclesfield but council leader Michael Jones has not ruled them out for future