Gas plan sparks fear for villages near Rugby

Campaigners are concerned about a company’s plan to discover whether it can extract gas from coal lying beneath villages near Rugby.

Residents fear the environment will be damaged if London-based Cluff Natural Resources gets its way. It wants to assess the viability of ‘underground coal gasification’ across a wide area. The process, known as UCG, involves pumping oxygen underground, igniting the coal and producing gas.

The land is close to Ryton, Bubbenhall, Long Itchington, Weston-under-Wetherley and Hunningham, and could include the parishes and villages of Marton, Birdingbury, Leamington Hastings, Hill, Princethorpe and Eathorpe. And Rugby resident Gareth Herd, of No UCG Warwickshire, is among those opposing the idea.

He said: “We would expect many people will be very shocked to discover that this licence is quietly being sold off.

“The area being licensed in Warwickshire includes a number of traditional villages in an undeveloped and beautiful area.”

But Algy Cluff, boss of Cluff Natural Resources, 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 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.”

No UCG Warwickshire is holding a public meeting about the plan at St Andrew’s Church House in Rugby on Thursday September 5 at 7pm.