Emotions were running high at a packed meeting of anti-gas extraction campaigners and energy firm bosses last week.
Well over 100 anxious Calow residents filled the primary school’s assembly hall to hear plans by Seven Star Natural Gas Ltd to drill 900 feet under the village to extract methane in what will be a 15-year operation.
The company, a subsidiary of Alkane Energy PLC – who currently have 22 gas extraction sites generating power for 70,000 homes – resubmitted an amended planning application for land off Dark Lane last week, after withdrawing a previous application made last August.
They said changes to the application – including screen bunds and a change in site orientation – were made to minimise noise and visual impact from the site. If approved, the company will set up a one hectare site to drill exploratory boreholes, erect containerised units and extract natural gas.
They will drill into what is called the ‘Chatsworth grit’ layer of sandstone over four weeks, 24 hours-a-day. After that, the site will remain until all the gas has been extracted.
Neil O’Brien, chief executive at Alkane, said as traditional energy sources dwindle, the need for independent power generators like Alkane is growing. He added: “As a company we know how important it is to listen to people local to our generation sites and we are proud of the fact that the group has doubled output and increased local employment over the last five years.
“Fracking has become a high profile issue nationally but I can reassure local people that the gas is contained in a conventional gas reservoir and that Seven Star Natural Gas has no requirement for, or intention of, fracking in Calow.”
But Jason Flaxman, a member of campaign group, Calow Against Gas Extraction – said: “It’s not fracking but it is horizontal drilling which is unlike anything they have done before.
“Although it’s not fracking now if they put an application in, in ten years time they could put a new application in and apply to do fracking.”
He added: “This is causing huge stress to local residents. It is going to be 50 metres from the nearest house, lit up 24 hours a day with heavy goods vehicles going up and down a country lane. If this was approved it would be disastrous for the community and the area around Calow. It’s quiet. That’s why I moved here. They are planning an industrial development in the middle of it all. It is going to look awful.”
The meeting – on September 10 – also heard how the noise level in the area could increase from 33 decibels to 70 decibels during site construction, and to 44 decibels during drilling.
Owen Downey, a member of CAGE, pointed to sleep disturbance and anxiety as well as people’s enjoyment of their gardens and background creep – the gradual increase in the background noise level – as reasons why the application should be rejected.
There was uproar at the meeting as Neil Baker and Tony Bryan for Alkane were seen laughing during a presentation made by CAGE member, Chris Wells.
A member of the public shouted: “What did you find so funny?”, while Jason Flaxman said afterwards: “It was very disrespectful when they were sniggering.”
Speaking after the meeting, Alkane’s project manager Tony Bryan, said: “The Dark Lane site has been chosen because geological surveys have shown it is very close to the optimum location for drilling and because of its distance from residential properties. As I hope we are demonstrating, being a good neighbour is important to us. Listening to local people and sharing information about our plans and activities is vital to building a good relationship.”
Anyone wishing to comment on the plans should contact Derbyshire County Council before September 30.