Plans to drill for gas near Rugby ‘put on hold’

UCG opponents Claire Jordan and Gareth Herd
UCG opponents Claire Jordan and Gareth Herd

Controversial plans to drill deep into countryside near Rugby are likely to be put on hold.

The news has been welcomed by campaigners who have fought hard against the Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) plans for an area near Princethorpe, Bubbenhall, Marton and Long Itchington.

The developers, Cluff Natural Resources, said last week it will allow its UCG licence application to lapse as it searches for more suitable areas. UCG involves drilling deep to find underground coal, setting fire to the resource and extracting the resultant gas.

Campaigners described the news as a great relief. But Gareth Herd, of No UCG Warwickshire, is also aware that this does not mean that the licence will definitely be rejected, even though, according to guidelines from The Coal Authority, it is likely to be thrown out. He said: “This is potentially great news for Warwickshire.

“We receive many emails from concerned residents who are either considering moving out of or into the proposed zone and are looking for the latest information to make decisions.

“This is a source of uncertainty and anxiety, particularly in regard to property values. The Coal Authority should therefore clarify the position by refusing this application as soon as possible.

“This should not be a source of uncertainty for the next four to six years.”

Cluff’s decision was stated in a letter to Warwickshire County council leader Izzi Seccombe after huge opposition to the proposals.

And while the decision does not mean the licence will not be issued, the turnaround would mean it is less likely for plans to progress as previously planned.

Mr Herd added: “We would prefer to hear that Cluff is withdrawing from UCG entirely. “Many areas of the nation are still under threat from this insidious technology.

“The implications for the environment, climate change and those who will be afflicted are enormous.

“Obviously the coal beneath our feet is of interest to other companies with ambitions similar to Cluff Natural Resources so we must be on our guard for future applications for both this and other areas of the county.”

Cllr Seccombe said: “In the long-term, Warwickshire’s position on underground coal gasification is that the technology remains largely untested, controversial and there is no clear indication of the financial and environmental impact that such an initiative could have on the county.

“In reference to fracking, the British Geological Survey indicated that there are no reserves in Warwickshire that are economically viable to extract using existing technology.”