Lancashire campaigners ‘troubled’ by underground gas plans

MP Cat Smith
MP Cat Smith
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Urgent assurances been called for over how controversial plans to store tons of natural gas under the Preesall countryside will be decided.

A result is expected soon on a bid by Halite Energy Group to store 900 million cubic metres of natural gas in salt caverns under the River Wyre.

Like the overwhelming majority of local people I am totally opposed to gas storage under the River Wyre.

MP Cat Smith

That decision will be made by Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), headed by newly appointed Secretary of State, Amber Rudd. However, DECC now says that decision is no longer part of Ms Rudd’s brief, a situation which coincides with the revelation that the minister’s brother Roland Rudd, is head of lobbying company Finsbury which represents Halite.

Campaigners in Wyre, including the MP Cat Smith, say they are troubled by how the gas bid, which has been on the table for more than a decade, will be determined.

Ms Smith, newly-elected Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, said: “Like the overwhelming majority of local people I am totally opposed to gas storage under the River Wyre. The latest revelations about the family link between the Minister tasked with making the final planning decision and the lobbying company working for Halite is deeply troubling. I have written an urgent letter to the Energy Secretary calling on her to clarify the situation and have launched a campaign website where local people can add their voice to mine in calling for transparency in the decision making process and for this scheme to be rejected.”

A DECC spokeswoman said: “Amber Rudd has declared her interests and they are all in the public domain. And this is a particular decision which will not be decided on by the Secretary of State, so there is no conflict of interest.”

A spokesman for Halite Energy said: “We have been entirely focused on addressing the few remaining planning issues under consideration, and communicating the local, regional and national economic and energy security benefits of our project.”