CHESHIRE West and Chester Council is readying the borough for fracking applications.

Fracking licenses have been granted across the borough by Government, including those covering Northwich and Winsford, but although licenses have been issued, planning permission would have to be granted by the council.

CWAC has now taken an advanced step in preparing itself for these applications by creating a supplementary planning document designed to assist planning officers when dealing with applications ‘safeguard us against the misuse of fracking’.

The document was presented to cabinet by Winsford ward member and cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure, Cllr Brain Clarke.

Cllr Clarke said: “The oil and gas exploration, production and distribution supplementary planning document provides advice in relation to development proposals that may come forward in the borough to explore the borough’s oil and gas resources.

“The Government has stated there is a national need to explore and develop shale gas and oil resources and has granted petroleum exploration and development licenses across much of our borough.

“This council recognises that residents have a legitimate environmental and safety concern and through our role as mineral planning authority, we need to ensure all these issues relating to further development of oil and gas are properly addressed.

“This SPD provides advice to applicants in terms of what this council expects as part of any planning application. The SPD strongly encourages applicants to engage with the council and communities at early stages of the process, but applications must demonstrate how their applications will accommodate the local plan policies that seek to protect the borough’s environment and residential amenities.

“This SPD safeguards us against the misuse of fracking. We have plans in place to control this and the SPD is just adding to that.”

Northwich ward member, Cllr Mark Stocks, spoke at the cabinet meeting, raising concerns about fracking on ‘unstable grounds’ across mid Cheshire.

Cllr Stocks said: “I welcome the fact that we as a council have produced this SPD, I do think it’s an important document. I have to say, I do think it could have a few more teeth.

“We need to ensure that exploration is carried out safely and the safely issue across this authority has many contexts, particularly in my ward.

“The concern I have is should drilling take place in certain areas within the ward, there is significant underground activity that has taken place over many years.

“It’s the impact that this drilling may have that is very much unknown."

He added: "The reality is the grounds in the mid Cheshire area are somewhat unstable, so I do think more work needs to be done on investigating the impact this could have, particularly where the ground conditions are not as favourable.”