Villages between Redditch and Bromsgrove could soon become boom-towns for the Fossil Fuel Industry following a recent discovery of gas and oil that may create 100’s of jobs and see major investment in the local canal network.
Contentious plans for shale gas drilling, known as “fracking”, near Tardebigge have split local opinion, with business leaders boasting a £20million boost to the famed Tardebigge Locks and a “boom-town” for the area. Yet campaigners have been left fuming that they have until the end of April to convince planners to reject the application.
Minerals company “First Fuels” this week submitted an outline planning application for an exploratory drilling site in an area known as the Finstall Basin, thought to be rich in shale gas.
The proposed site, near Dusthouse Lane in Finstall, comprises of a square mile surfaced area with 5 well-pads, each with a 38metre high drilling rig. Initial work is planned to take five years, and is expected to determine whether it’s profitable to extract gas and oil locally. (See artist’s impression)
The potential for shale gas drilling was unearthed last year by The University of Worcester’s Professor Dorothy Yarnell who is working with First Fuels. She said, “The Finstall Basin is a geological niche that needs to be explored and will go hand-in-hand with improvements to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. Despite minor disruption, the surrounding villages are set to benefit from job opportunities, cheaper energy bills and cash incentives.”
Local campaigner and amateur historian Ben Freeman of Alvechurch said, “It’s no surprise really. The Domesday Book mentions “the riseth of nauseous gases from thee lande in Tar-de-Bigge, Black Well and Finst-Huile. I’ve kept quiet about this for years, but now it looks like we’ve got a fight on our hands to protect our countryside. Knowing what we do about climate change, it would be foolish to explore for more fossil fuel. Leave it in the ground I say.”
In a bid to mitigate their environmental impact, fracking company First Fuels have submitted plans to transport construction materials to the Tardebigge site by futuristic narrowboat technology “SolarBarge”. A proposed investment of £20 million to the Tardebigge Locks, the longest flight of locks in the UK, may see the heritage waterways site enhanced to enable high volumes of cargo to the drilling site.
Canal enthusiast Frank Pitts of Hanbury Wharf near Droitwich said, “Whilst we welcome the interest in opening-up waterways to industry again, we’re uneasy about the proposals. Tardebigge Locks are a tourist attraction, any effort to update them could be disastrous. Then there’s the run-off water from the drilling. They’ll end up polluting our canals and rivers. I’ve seen enough poorly moor hens in my time to know this stinks.”
Harry Oakes from local campaign group “Frack Off Our Lovely Finstall” said, “This is outrageous. And I urge residents to take action now. Sign our petition. We’re not gonna stand aside whilst they frack our neighbourhood and rubbish our heritage.”
You can sign their petition at: https://braf.typeform.com/to/y9PGYO