Leader does U-turn over ‘no frack­ing’ prom­ise

Macclesfield Express - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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