On Tuesday 9th April we heard that the application by Halite to store gas in underground caverns in the Preesall area had been refused. Three Planning Inspectors and an Advisor on Geology had spent 16 months examining the evidence presented by Halite and by those opposed to the scheme. The Inspectors concluded that although concerns about such matters as proximity to residential areas, to walkers on the Wyre Way, the discharge of brine into the Irish Sea, the industrialisation of a rural landscape etc. were all important, nevertheless the national need for gas storage outweighed all these factors.

There was just one area – albeit the most important – on which they were not satisfied, which was the geology. Here the Inspectors concluded that Halite had not done sufficient geological investigations to demonstrate that the areas selected for the caverns could accommodate the amount of storage being proposed. Hence they recommended that approval should be given but that no work should commence until further extensive geological surveys were completed and that these showed that the scheme could safely be achieved.

The Secretary of State agreed with the findings of the Inspectors but was not prepared to grant approval in the light of the uncertainty about the geology. The idea that the scheme could go ahead without the knowledge that it could be achieved was unacceptable.

LCC and Wyre Councils had objected to the proposals on several grounds but not on geology. In fact they had agreed a statement of common ground with Halite to the effect that the geology was suitable. Protect Wyre Group was the only organisation which drew attention of the Inspectors to the inadequacy of the Halite investigations. If it had been left to LCC and Wyre, the application would have been approved.

Protect Wyre would not have been able to continue its objections in the face of the evidence of the Halite “experts”, without the support of the 11,000 people who wrote to show just how much they wanted us to win. To this we must add our 3 MPs who spoke out against the application to the Inspectors at the Public Hearing. An incredibly big thank you must go to everyone who had the tenacity to believe.

Howard Phillips

Vice-Chair Protect Wyre Group