Controversial gas storage company Halite Energy has been given the green light to start buying up land to build a pipeline.
The certificate covers a small area of open space at the foreshore at Rossall Beach. It does not relate to housing estates.
The certificate does not give Halite compulsory purchase powers, it is a legal formality required as part of the planning process. Compulsory purchase powers are part of the Development Consent Order, a decision on which will be made in April.
Halite has also pointed out the certificate does not give permission to construct an observation platform or brine outfall pipeline
That approval has come before the decision on the much bigger gas store plan which would see caverns created under the salt strata beneath the River Wyre.
The latest development has left community groups fighting the scheme worried the new contract is the biggest sign yet the massive plan will get the go-ahead.
The granting of the certificate is part of the process Halite has had to undertake under the Planning Inspectorate. It is no indication of whether the Development Consent Order will be granted.
Howard Phillips, of the Protect Wyre Group and vice-chairman of Thornton Action Group, said Halite should have waited for the Planning Inspectorate’s decision before applying for permission.
But a spokesman for Halite said the firm, as with other developers, was required by law to apply for the certificate prior to the granting of the Development Consent Order. “We have not jumped the gun, we have followed stringent guidelines laid down in law under the Planning Inspectorate framework,” he said.
Mr Philips claimed: “They are trying to give the impression they’ve got permission. In the past Canatxx thought they were going to get permission and they didn’t get it, so they are jumping the gun.”
Halite this week moved to reassure residents, and said the application is all part of their preparation procedure.
Chief executive Keith Budinger said: “It is important to emphasise this certificate does not impact on the decision on whether the development consent order itself will be issued for the project as a whole.
“That decision, which will confirm whether our proposal for an underground gas storage facility is acceptable, will be made separately by the Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and we anticipate his decision in April.”
More than 10,000 objections to gas storage have been received from residents of Over Wyre and the Fylde coast who are worried about the impact of the scheme.