Security cameras prompt protests

Flashback: The remains of the brinewell at Preesall after the blowout incident in summer 2011
Flashback: The remains of the brinewell at Preesall after the blowout incident in summer 2011
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The company behind controversial plans to create gas storage pods in the salt strata under the River Wyre estuary has defended its decision to site CCTV cameras on the salt fields close to the riverbank.

Halite Energy has boosted its security measures since June 2011, when in an incident regarded by the company as sabotage, tonnes of salty mud spewed on to a country lane, destroying vegetation, at Preesall.

A second incident in March this year saw kerosene poured into a redundant borehole drilling shaft and set alight.

The clean-up and mitigation of the environmental impact of both incidents cost Halite £1m.

But the company’s setting up of nine CCTV cameras on former brinefields and near disused brinewells at Stalmine and Preesall has angered sopme residents.

Stalmine farmer June Jackson, a leading critic of Halite who is also a tenant on Halite-owned land, said there had been no consultation over the siting of the CCTV cameras and that Halite’s reaction was “over the top.”

Concerns have also been expressed by Stalmine Parish Council.

A Wyre Council investigation is under way to see if the firm needs planning permission.

Halite said the company had recently commissioned a specialist security firm to identify ways it could further improve security and deter potential criminal activity.

Keith Budinger, chief executive of Halite said: “We take our role in the community very seriously and we are committed to the ongoing monitoring and maintenance of our estate.

“The new measures we have introduced will supplement our existing security measures which aim to protect our land and the community, also helping to deter anti-social and criminal activity such as fly-tipping or theft from farms.

“Our approach has been welcomed by many local tenant farmers and residents and is supported by the Health andSafety Executive and the police.”

The company says all tenant farmers were advised by email about the erection of the CCTV cameras. Halite added that at the request of Mrs Jackson’s farmer husband, Darrell, one camera had been moved so it was nearer a fence line and away from a field currently being farmed.

Halite confirmed it had commissioned the erection of a several CCTV cameras across its 1,300 acre Over Wyre estate.

Responding to criticisms, Halite said: “The decision on the positioning of the cameras was based on the optimum location to capture activity across Halite’s landholding.

“All footage is captured and monitored by a third party specialist company which is approved by the Home Office to undertake such activity. These images are not monitored by Halite. This is an accepted practice in the security industry.

“Our overriding concern is to protect our assets and ensure the safety and security of the local community. The methods we have employed reflect this aim.”

Halite said it had n0t applied for planning permission as the cameras were temporary and below 2.4 metres, the national industry standard.

A Wyre Council spokesman said: “We’ve received a complaint about this but have not yet visited the site - an officer is due to visit in the next few days.”

A government ruling on the Halite proposals is expected in the new year.