NATIONAL planning bosses will announce before the end of the year whether they will consider Halite Energy’s multi-million pound plans for gas storage under the River Wyre estuary - and another, possibly final, round of public debate on the district’s most controversial topic.
Halite lodged its documents with the Infrastructure Planning Commission yesterday.
Most of the plans have been available to the public for many months, and Halite has carried out public consultation on both sides of the River Wyre.
The plans show an underground gas storage facility for up to 900 million cubic metres of natural gas, a gas interconnector pipeline between the Wyre and Nateby, a brine outfall pipeline near Fleetwood and associated infrastructure.
The formal application to the IPC is the procedure which has replaced the earlier procedure under which county councils determined large scale projects such as this.
Lancashire County Council has twice previously rejected gas store plans made by Halite’s predecessor company, Canatxx.
The change of name from Canatxx to Halite, and a more positive PR effort, has failed to halt opposition to the gas store scheme, with most of the opposition being channelled via the Protect Wyre Group.
Since Canatxx’s re-launch as Halite the company has repeatedly stressed its commitment to safety.
But the company has come under fire in recent months following the aftermath of a brine well blast at Preesall in June, which saw tonnes of mud erupting, geyser-like from deep beneath the ground, killing vegetation and forcing the temporary closure of a country lane.
After an inquiry Halite said the primary cause was ruptured casing at depth linked to “third party interference being the cause of damage at the wellhead.”
Halite declined to reveal the name of the forensic company it hired to investigate the incident, or reveal evidence it gave to the police.
After a police probe, which saw several anti-gas store campaigners interviewed, police announced they could find “no verifiable evidence either way” to indicate whether a crime had been committed.
Halite said it would not reveal its evidence because “should further information come to light, the Police investigations will be re-opened.”
Its stance came under fire from the public and Preesall mayor Coun Vivien Taylor, at a recent public forum meeting at Stalmine, where company boss Keith Budinger took much of the flak.
Halite faces another hurdle within the next few days when members of Knott End Golf Club vote, at a specially called meeting, on whether or not to accept a cash bid by Halite to buy or lease part of its land.
Details of exactly what the Halite would use the land for have yet to be made public, but it there has been speculation it could be a service road linking to the main Stalmine / Preesall road network.
The gas store application was received by the IPC from Halite Energy Group Ltd yesterday, December 1, 2011.
The IPC has 28 days from today (December 2) to review it and decide whether or not to accept it.
The decision should be made by Friday, December 30, 2011.
If the application is accepted, the IPC will publish all the application documents on its website, publish the date from which the public will be able to register to put their case and publish the date on which registration will close.
If the application is not accepted, the IPC will publish the decision letter and reasons why it hasn’t been accepted, publish all the application documentation on its website.
The IPC said: “The public cannot send us their views of this proposal until registration has opened. However, if anyone would like to find out more about the process in the meantime, please download Advice Note 8.3: ‘Putting your case to the IPC - how to register and make a written representation.’ “
* More on this story in next week’s Garstang Courier, out December 7, 2011.