Concerns over coalfield plans near Rugby

Campaigners Claire Jordan and Gareth Herd
Campaigners Claire Jordan and Gareth Herd
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People crowded into a village hall earlier this month to find out how proposals for extracting gas from coal reserves might affect them.

In August it was revealed that a chunk of land near Rugby and Southam has been earmarked for what is known as underground coal gasification (UCG) – burning the reserves to produce syngas.

The land is close to Ryton, Bubbenhall and Long Itchington and could include the parishes of Eathorpe, Marton, Birdinbury, Leamington Hastings and Princethorpe.

The meeting was staged at Eathorpe Village Hall and David Burns, one of the organisers, said people from at least five other affected villages attended.

Mr Burns said: “What really concerns us is that, if this goes ahead, our quiet countryside will become a global guinea pig. “Wrong decisions now could ruin the countryside for our children and generations to come.”

The gas could be extracted from what is known as the Warwickshire Thick Seam, which runs from the old Daw Mill Colliery north of Coventry and down south through rural and urban areas, including Kenilworth and Leamington.

Eathorpe villager David French has looked closely at UCG overseas and said: “One thing that is quite clear is that all UCG projects about which there is published information have been very small and all were halted long before there was any evidence about the longer-term effects.”

In August Algy Cluff, boss of Cluff Natural Resources, the firm who have applied for a license to explore, disputed that the process would could cause widespread environmental damage if it was conducted in Warwickshire.

He said the production area would be only “around half the size of a football pitch” and that Britain should not depend on “potentially unreliable” overseas gas suppliers.

He stressed it is entirely different from the controversial practice of ‘fracking’.

The bid for the licence has been made to the Coal Authority. A spokesman from the organisation said: “This is just a licence for a company to decide whether it’s economically viable to take it forward.

“What they can’t do is operate a UCG plant under this licence.”