8 November 2013 - "Planning for the King Street Energy UGS Business is now fully implemented"
This page of the Acton Bridge website discusses energy issues in Cheshire, and in particular the brine pipelines which were proposed as long ago as 2007 to be constructed by NPL / King Street Energy between the Mersey Estuary and Northwich, passing through our small Cheshire village. The pipelines would entail very substantial (and unwelcome) disruption to the village and the surrounding area, cutting a 100m-wide swathe through domestic properties and farms.
Following urgent consultation at the instigation of Acton Bridge Parish Council, the developer agreed to a major diversion of the pipeline route away from Acton Bridge, and instead through parts of Crowton, Onston and Cuddington, eventually routing to the south of Northwich. See below for outline plans, which may be subject to change. NPL's description of their gas storage project has now moved to a new domain, KingStreetEnergy.com. If you navigate to their "Timescale" page and shrink the image, you can read that in November 2012 "The planning permission for the Cheshire Pipeline and Cheshire Gas Plan application were confirmed by Cheshire West and Chester Borough Council"
Previous Revision of 11. December 2009
Cheshire County Council (now Cheshire West and Chester) had refused planning permission for the NPL / King Street Energy pipeline, and the developer appealed against the decision. A Planning Inquiry into the solution mining development (linked to the pipeline) took place at Forest Hills Hotel, Frodsham, starting on 14. July 2009 with the case reference 2093471.
We have learned this week that the Appeal has been allowed. The Inspector, Wendy J Burden BA (Hons) DipTP MRTPI, recommended that the appeals be allowed and planning permission granted for the Underground Gas Storage installation and for the Pipelines. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government agrees with the Inspector's reasoning and conclusions, and her recommendation.
Here is an extract from CCC website about the original refusal of Planning Permission:
Application Number: 3/P/2008/111/XX/59-4/08/0181/FZ5-6/08/00172/CPO
Decision: Committee refusal
Applicant Name: Simon Towers, King Street Energy (Cheshire) Ltd
Site Address: 58km pipeline route between Bromborough and King Street, Northwich
Proposal: Construction and operation of twin parallel pipelines, pumping stations and infrastructure for water delivery and brine disposal.
Reasons given were that the Proposal:
- Does not provide sufficient information to assess the likely impact on protected species and habitats
- Would be visually intrusive and inappropriate development affecting the openness of the Green Belt at the East Clifton Tip site at Frodsham
- Is not sustainable development and does not conserve or safeguard finite mineral resources
Previously, the Northwich Guardian reported in November that King Street Energy Ltd had asked for a last-minute postponement of their application's hearing by Cheshire County Council's Planning Committee, "while more information is gathered". The same newspaper reported on 10. December that the CCC Planning Committee had refused permission for the Gas Storage Project. You can read the full article here.
It's some time since we heard directly from NPL, but this website has been visited by power companies such as EDF Trading, Gaz de France and Powergen, and also by MWH, who are one of the engineering contractors to NPL, and whose plans are shown further down this page. Network Rail, and Cheshire and Denbighshire County Councils have also visited in recent months, as have Jacobs Belgie nv, the international engineering consultants, who are working for E-ON at the nearby Stublach gas storage project, and searched for "stublach+gas+jacobs".
Vale Royal Borough Council's Planning Committee discussed the application (07-2846-FZ5, Cheshire CC) for the gas storage facility on Tuesday, 12. February 2008. The Planning Officer's recommendation to the Committee was to REFUSE the application, as follows:
"RECOMMENDATION: Objection on the grounds that :
(1) the visual impact of the proposed development would be seriously detrimental to the character and appearance of the local area and would thereby be contrary to the aims and objectives of policy GS5 of the Vale Royal Borough Local Plan First Review;
(2) the proposed development would be likely to result in unacceptable levels of background noise to the detriment of local residential amenity, contrary to the aims and objectives of policy P3 of the Vale Royal Borough Local Plan First Review;
(3) that insufficient mitigation and enhancement is proposed for the benefit of wildlife in line with advice contained within PPS9 Biodiversity and Geological Conservation."
In fact, on 12. February the Planning Committee decided to defer a decision, thus:
124 07-2846-FZ5 - THE CONSTRUCTION OF A SOLUTION MINING COMPOUND, TEN UNDERGROUND NATURAL GAS STORAGE CAVITIES, ASSOCIATED GAS PROCESSING PLANT, TRANSMISSIONS INFRASTRUCTURE AND ANCILLARY DEVELOPMENT SUCH AS CONTROL ROOM AND GATEHOUSE AT HIGH HOUSE FARM, KING STREET, LACH DENNIS
A proposal to defer the application was carried unanimously.
DECIDED: That this application be deferred to a future meeting of the Planning Committee in order to carry out further investigation.
Meanwhile, Acton Bridge Parish Council has been asked by Cheshire County Council to comment on the proposed pipelines which would service the solution mining operation.
There have been media articles about the Gaz de France / Ineos gas storage development at Stublach, for example in The Guardian (August 29 2007), which said, "Gaz de France is to invest about �350m in a 30-year deal to develop Britain's second-largest gas storage facility in salt caverns in the north-west of England. It has reached a deal with Ineos, the world's third-largest chemical company, to store gas in a series of salt caverns in Cheshire". The Stublach plant was approved by the Secretary of State, despite objections from Vale Royal Borough Council.
Ineos will make use of the brine extracted from their caverns, and this was a factor in the Secretary of State's decision. However, NPL / King Street Energy will simply waste the brine (and risk further ecological damage) by pumping it into the River Mersey.
The Northwich Guardian again featured the Parish Council's concerns about the proposed pipeline, interviewing Steve Pardoe from Acton Bridge, and Mr Simon Towers from NPL with an illustrated article by James Wilson on p8.
We have also been assisting with a national journalist's enquiries into the background of NPL, and their recent activities both here in Cheshire and in the North East. More anon...
Click to read more media reports.
Acton Bridge Parish Council invited the developer, NPL Estates, to address a special meeting on Wednesday 30. May 2007. This provided an opportunity for parishioners to hear the developer's plans and to ask questions. Here's an abstract from the Minutes of the meeting.
Since the meeting, we have had independent confirmation from a Crowton resident that the developers will resort to Compulsory Purchase of private property, using the Pipelines Act, if owners do not consent to have the pipeline through their land!
The Parish Council has just (late August) received yet another map of the proposed pipeline, now showing only a route to the south-west of the village, and not the original northerly route through private gardens and farmland. In the accompanying letter, Mr Towers of NPL Estates writes, "I can further confirm that the original route as shown at the Parish Council meeting has been abandoned by NPL". However, the remaining route might still have an impact on some of our farmers and other parishioners, so we can't assume that Acton Bridge is out of the firing line just yet.
The NPL pipeline was the front page story in the Northwich Chronicle on 6. June 2007.
The banner headline on the Northwich Chronicle of 6. June 2007, again quoting the concerns of Acton Bridge Parish Council about the threats of compulsory purchase. Such powers could be enforced under the Pipelines Act to go through agricultural land where agreement could not be reached with the owners.
The Northwich Guardian had its own front page article on 2. May 2007, featuring Acton Bridge residents concerned that the pipeline route (as clearly shown on NPL's own map) would come right through their garden.
Click to read more media reports.
There has been widespread concern within Acton Bridge that the developers might use powers of Compulsory Purchase under the Pipelines Act to obtain wayleaves where residents refused to agree to the sale of their land. Mr Simon Towers of NPL initially denied this in an article in the Northwich Guardian, but has since conceded that NPL, as a small company, was only fronting the project and would be backed by a major 'gas shipper' such as Transco or E-on, though he was not able to name the partners they are considering. He said such a body would have its own powers of Compulsory Purchase, which contradicts the assurances previously given that NPL itself 'were not looking at private compulsory purchase orders'.
The picture at right shows an extract from NPL's original map with the 100m wide pipeline corridor (in NPL's blue dashes) covering the entire width of one resident's house and garden, which we have outlined in red for clarity. The small wood and ponds to the west are privately owned by another resident. Neither could be described as 'agricultural land'.
We have now had sight of maps with three different pipeline corridors (which are reproduced here in the cause of fair comment). The original route from Crowton (shown at left, highlighted in pink) passed along Cliff Lane, crossing Cliff Road and Wetton Lane, and then across the River Weaver near the A49. A more recent map has that route retained, but also a shows a southerly option (here in yellow) through Ash House Farm, across Pikenall, Milton Rough, and crossing Sandfield Lane twice. The coloured bands show the approximate extent of the 100 metre wide swathe of land which would be taken.
You can see the railway line running diagonally, Acton Bridge Station is at the lower right, and the River Weaver at top right.
The new map at right, unfortunately on a much smaller scale, was presented at the Parish Council meeting on the evening of 30. May 2007, and shows a more westerly route for the 'southern' option (again in yellow - MWH visited this website on the afternoon of the meeting, and obviously decided to adopt our own highlight colours from the map above!).
Mr Simon Towers of NPL Estates has said that the final route through the area would have to be defined before the planning application is submitted, and anyone affected would be consulted. However, many residents who would certainly be affected by the routes shown on these maps have not been contacted, let alone consulted, by NPL or their agents.
On 15. August the Northwich Guardian (p8) carried an article by James Wilson, with a photo of Parish Councillor Steve Pardoe looking at the latest plans for the route of the proposed pipeline.
The NPL pipeline was the front page story with a banner headline on the Northwich Chronicle of 6. June, again quoting the concerns of Acton bridge Parish Council about the threats of compulsory purchase. Such powers could be enforced under the Pipelines Act to go through agricultural land where agreement could not be reached with the owners.
Mr Simon Towers, Managing Director of NPL Estates said the final route through the area would have to be defined before the planning application is submitted, and anyone affected would be consulted.
On 6. June the Northwich Guardian (p10) carried an article by Vivien Kandel, again raising concerns about Compulsory Purchase Orders, which the developers had not ruled out at the meeting on 30. May. Simon Towers of NPL Estates was quoted as saying: "This compulsory purchase issue is blowing up out of all proportion. No one has special powers to go through people's gardens. We are not looking at going through gardens, we are looking at getting consent from agricultural landowners."
However, Mr Towers conceded that NPL, as a small company, was only fronting the project and would be backed by a major 'gas shipper' such as Transco or E-on, though he was not able to name the partners they are considering. He said such a body would have its own powers of Compulsory Purchase, which was a serious concern to several residents and contradicted the assurances previously given by Mr Towers that NPL itself 'were not looking at private compulsory purchase orders'.
On 30. May 2007, the Northwich Chronicle carried a "NEWSFile" article advertising the special Parish Council Meeting which was to be held that day.
You can read an abstract from the Minutes of the meeting in PDF form here.
On 16. May the Northwich Guardian (p10) carried an article featuring Simon Towers , project manager of NPL Estates, who was quoted as saying: "In terms of people worrying, we will not be going through people's gardens. That is ludicrous. We can understand people might jump to conclusions. We won't be taking the pipeline through private land. We are looking at agricultural land".
Well, it's not at all ludicrous if you look at NPL's own map of the proposed pipeline route, which was issued to some residents of Acton Bridge back in March. An extract is pictured on the right. It clearly shows the 100m wide pipeline corridor (in NPL's blue dashes) covering the entire width of one resident's house and garden, which we have outlined in red for clarity. The small wood and ponds to the west are privately owned by another resident - so it's hardly 'agricultural land'. Mr Towers later apologised for this choice of words to the public meeting.
 Mr Towers is named as Steve Towers within the Guardian article, but as Simon Towers in their photo caption and on NPL's website.
On 2. May 2007, the Northwich Guardian interviewed Peter Young, who said: "We first heard indirectly about the Cheshire Pipeline Project from a letter from the chartered surveyors P Wilson & Co in late February, about a week before completing the purchase of our new home. The corridor that they were proposing to survey for the pipeline stretched from our front gate to the end of our garden.
"Despite this, no information on this had been sent to the previous owner and when I contacted P Wilson they were unable to tell me anything about the need for this project or how this corridor had been selected." He added: "We are very concerned that Cheshire Energy and their partner companies appear to believe that they can force two huge pipelines under gardens adjacent to houses irrespective of the effect on the gardens and services and without the consent of the owners."
On 28. March 2007, the Northwich Guardian reported with a front-page article (continued on page 3) on the NPL Cheshire Pipeline Project, quoting Cllr Ann McEllin of Lostock Parish Council and Vale Royal Borough Council.
The Guardian's article continued on page 6 with comments from Simon Towers of NPL Estates, and Steve Molloy of Cheshire County Council, to whom NPL had submitted a Scoping Report.
There have been threats of Compulsory Purchase if residents don't agree to let NPL take their land for the pipeline.
The Guardian article also quoted Acton Bridge Parish Council vice-chairman Steve Pardoe, who said: "Clearly we are very concerned and need to know more. A lot of residents feel very unsettled and feel there's some kind of hidden agenda".