Anger over plans for fuel extraction in Warwickshire countryside

A huge chunk of land near Leamington and Southam has been earmarked for extracting gas from coal reserves.

Gas/coal extraction company applying for a license to explore potential underground reserves of gas/coal (similar to fracking) near Marton/Draycote Water. 

Pictured: Claire Jordan & Gareth Herd
Gas/coal extraction company applying for a license to explore potential underground reserves of gas/coal (similar to fracking) near Marton/Draycote Water. Pictured: Claire Jordan & Gareth Herd

But already there is talk of direct action to stop what is known as underground coal gasification (UCG), as has happened in Surrey and Sussex by anti-fracking campaigners.

Concerned people have set up the action group No UCG Warwickshire to fight gas extraction, which they claim would be a “blight on the landscape” and cause pollution, particularly to the water table.

Sign up to our daily WarwickshireWorld Today newsletter

Gareth Herd, of No UCG Warwickshire, said: “We would expect many people will be very shocked to discover that this licence is quietly being sold off without their or the county council’s knowledge. We would expect anger.

“If it went ahead it would likely open the floodgates to UCG occurring in many other locations.

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

“As the UCG process involves injecting pure oxygen down into the coal seam to enable it to burn, oxygen will need to be transported to the location and stored in cryogenic tanks on site. Again this would represent additional traffic and hazard to the site.”

And stressing that he was speaking purely as an individual and not as a spokesman for No UCG Warwickshire, he said: “If they get the licence and all the planning permissions and it gets to the stage when they are hoping to get vehicles on the site, I would like to see the community coming out and I would expect support from around the country.

“I would like to see the community coming out to impede their progress. I would imagine people would go quite far to stop this.”

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.

The area up for exploration is also close to Draycote Water, a reservoir supplying householders in Warwickshire.

A spokeswoman for Severn Trent Water said: “We’re committed to the safe and secure supply of drinking water to our customers. When we’re consulted, we’ll consider any proposal thoroughly with this as a priority.”

But Algy Cluff, boss of London-based Cluff Natural Resources, which has bid for the gas licence, denied claims of pollution, water contamination and traffic problems, saying Britain should not be reliant on gas from “potentially unreliable” overseas suppliers. And although Mr Cluff’s bid for a licence covers a wide patch, he said the production area would only be “around half the size of a football pitch”.

He also dismissed claims that UCG is the same as fracking, saying: “I would say comparing fracking with UCG is like comparing chalk with cheese.”

He said the known coal reserves are part of what is known as the Warwickshire Thick Seam, which stretches down from the near the old Daw Mill Colliery north of Coventry and goes under a wide area of south Warwickshire, including urban areas.

David Fry, chairman of Marton Parish Council, said: “People in the area are very concerned. The overwhelming view is of concern. What’s going to be the impact on the area? There are concerns about a processing plant being there.”

The bid for the licence has been made to the Coal Authority, a government body responsible for managing Britain’s coal reserves.

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. There’s no fracking involved in this process.”

If the Coal Authority awards a full operational licence, Cluff Natural Resources will need planning permission from Warwickshire County Council and agreement from the Environment Agency.

No UCG Warwickshire has organised a public meeting for communities to discuss and thrash out ways to oppose the gas from coal plan.

It is at 7pm on September 5 in St Andrew’s Church House, Rugby town centre.