Despite serious concerns by green groups, including Friends of the Earth and the Breathe Clean Air Group, Trafford Council tonight approved an application by fracking firm IGas to drill for Coal Bed Methane on a site in Davyhulme by the M60 motorway and almost next to the Trafford Centre.
Coal Bed Methane (CBM) is gas which is trapped in coal layers, and to extract it the coal seam must be depressurised by drilling vertically and then horizontally, whilst pumping out vast quantities of water from the coal layers. As the pressure is released, the gas starts to flow. CBM extraction does not always involve fracking, but is called the `evil twin of fracking', because it often does.
Before tonight's meeting, Friends of the Earth wrote to the Council setting out serious flaws in the Council planning officers' recommendation for approval, re-iterated at tonight's meeting, including health and safety, groundwater, climate change and air quality concerns, and the lack of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
"It is astonishing that Trafford Council planners have not required IGas to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment when EIAs are now being regularly required of unconventional oil and gas activities submitted to local planning authorities in England" said Manchester Friends of the Earth member and Trafford resident Pete Abel
"Granting planning permission for 25 years' worth of unconventional fossil fuel production without fully taking into account the environmental, climate change and air quality impacts would be a serious dereliction of our councillors' duty to local residents."
The Breathe Clean Air Group, which campaigned against Peel Holdings' incinerator, or BREP (Barton Renewable Energy Plant), added: "Trafford Council's recent Air Pollution Report shows that many residential roads and schools in Davyhulme and Urmston are already breaching EEC (legal) limits. Granting planning permission for more polluting processes is making an already illegal problem even worse.
"We should be working to improve local air quality, not causing more toxic air pollution" the Group explained "The chosen site is on the Davyhulme side of the M60 Motorway and next to the Davyhulme Waste Water Treatment Works. Drilling is planned to take place directly under the BREP Site. Is this safe?"
It's also right next to the Trafford Centre, a few hundred yards from the Salford border, on land where an anti-fracking site was set up 15 months ago, before being abandoned as the area was too toxic for campaigners (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
Salford activist and anti-fracking campaigner, John Catterall, who was at the meeting, was staggered that councillors had approved the application by IGas...
"As far as I'm concerned, these people have never read the report" he said "One councillor even said `I've just come back from holiday and haven't had time to read the report but I trust these people'. Well, what kind of councillor is that?
"We've just got to keep fighting and fighting, and if it means occupying the land again then that's what we will do" he added "We're not just going to walk away from this – we can't , we've been fighting it for too long..."