Scottish Power was accused of telling residents "bull****" about plans to store gas underground at Byley as battle lines were drawn during a public meeting at Goostrey last week.
Sandbach Chronicle, 22nd June 2001
The locals, many of whom do not have a gas supply to their houses, said they would be taking all the risks while Scottish Power made all the profit.
And they told Scottish Power representatives directly: "We don't want you."
The village hall was packed as Fred Attwater of Scottish Power gave a presentation explaining why the gas storage plant was needed - but it cut no ice with local residents, who asked him if he would be moving his family to the area once the plant was built.
They asked why Byley had been chosen and amid gasps, Mr. Attwater told them: "We wouldn't put this sort of thing in a town. Gas is dangerous if not handled correctly. It is sensible to keep it away from people."
There were cries of "We are people!" from residents, but Mr. Attwater continued: "It would be far enough away from people not to cause any problem for them."
Under heavy questioning Mr. Attwater admitted that the gas stored at the plant would be sold to the highest bidders - even if they were from abroad - and that the company would recoup the £60 million cost of building the plant within seven or eight years.
John Edwards of Goostrey told him: "You are building the plant to make a profit. You will sell the gas abroad and we will take the risk - and we have no gas supply."
Amid applause, he continued: "We have heard a lot of what some people call spin and I call bull****.
"You present the reasons for building this plant as if it was a social service, as if it was to meet the need for more gas and to help the environment. In fact the full and only reason is to make money and you are using spin and bull**** to cover this up.
"You say you undertake consultation, but noone wants the plant to go ahead. If you don't know by now that the local community doesn't want your plant you must be living on Mars.
"Why do you tell us you are here to listen when all you do is present the company line? Will you seriously listen to us? You know we don't want your plant. Or will you continue to insult our intelligence? "Stop pretending that you are listening to us, because you're not. When you plan to drill under the soil of Cheshire and plant a series of gas bombs with the power of a respectable nuclear weapon, why should we trust you?"
Already, 4,500 letters of objection to the scheme have been sent to Cheshire County Council, but the clerk of Cranage Parish Council, Frank Walton, warned residents of rising costs of the fight which Council Tax payers would ultimately pay.
"If the council refuse the application Scottish Power will appeal and that will result in a public inquiry," he said. "This is going to cost money and Cranage Parish Council is bearing the brunt. Please recognise that and do everything you can to help."
John Halstead, of the action group set up by local residents to fight the plans, gave a presentation against the proposals and commented on the recent elections, saying: "A local councillor - who has been given his marching orders - said the pollution from this scheme would be no worse that that from the M6. But the M6 is very long and the gas plant would be at a single point."
Mrs. Antrobus from Byley was furious that stored gas would be sold abroad.
"Why are you storing gas for people abroad when we have no gas in Byley?" she asked. "It is unbelievable what I have to go through to get a gas tank in my garden for 100 litres."
Congleton borough Coun. Rab Parry said the plant was recognised as a C.O.M.A. (a major accident) site and he pointed out that local fire stations were only parttime.
"What you are doing is introducing a major accident site where there isn't one at the moment," he said.
"This application will create a precedent for other plans of a dangerous nature. This site would be category 'A' in terms of the fire service. At Holmes Chapel we have one fire engine. It is a retained fire station with no permanent staff. It is the same at Middlewich and Sandbach.
"If we have to upgrade them to sort you out that will be at public expense and I think that's disgraceful."
Mr. Attwater agreed the plant would be a top tier site, but said whether the application set a precedent or not was a matter for Cheshire County Council. He said he was not qualified to speak about fire service arrangements, but pointed out that the plant would be paying rents like any other business in Cheshire and that they would be substantial.
Janet Kennerley of Lower Withington, who pointed out that her area did not have a gas supply either, wanted to know how many jobs would be created by the plant.
Mr. Attwater said once it was built 10 jobs would be created and filled by local people.
He added: "During construction 3050% of the money spent will go into the local community" and said the creation of brine by the plant would help Cheshire's chemical industry, which he said was "badly needed assistance to secure investment and jobs."
Nick Roach of Brereton Green - which he said also had no gas supply - asked about contamination and Mr. Attwater said the former Byley airfield was already contaminated with asbestos, hydrocarbons and heavy metals and had not been cleaned up since the Second World War. Cheshire county and Congleton borough Coun. Bill Owen said it was the first time this contamination had been suggested and continued: "There may be derelict buildings there, but it is certainly not contaminated to the extent that it needs the construction of a gas processing plant on it."
Many residents raised the issue of accidents at similar sites throughout the world and the possibility of terrorist attack and they wanted to know what precautions would be taken.
Mr. Attwater said security would be automated, with one man in a control room.
"All the systems would have backups and if there was anything wrong it would all shut down," he said.
Mike Ball thanked Mr. Attwater for his presentation adding, amid much laughter: "He is so in favour of this scheme that I look forward to when he buys a house in Byley, his wife buys locally grown veg. and his children attend Byley School."
After the meeting residents crowded out to sign up to help the protest group and make donations to the cause.
Sandbach Chronicle, 22nd June 2001