Byley Gas Storage: Council Off the Hook 27Nov2002

Byley Gas Storage: Council Off The Hook

OFF THE HOOK

CHESHIRE County Council this week breathed a sigh of relief when an inspector upheld its decision not to offer evidence against plans to build a huge gas storage facility in Byley.

The government-appointed inspector refused to halt the public inquiry after revelations that the county council had sought advice from ScottishPower's lawyers ZYDA LAW when considering its position regarding refusal of the plant.

On Monday, November 25, Inspector Bob Lyons, a chartered civil engineer, said he would be continuing with the inquiry despite calls from protestors that their case could now be prejudiced. He said: "I will not agree with any declaration that this inquiry is unfair."

Mr Lyons made a four point ruling to the inquiry after William Upton, representing protest groups Councils Against the Plant and Residents Against the Plant, told him the inquiry was unfair after details of an agreement between the county council and the power giant (negotiated by ZYDA LAW) were made public.

The inspector told the inquiry that the protestors' request for the ruling arose from an unusual situation where Cheshire County Council maintained a reason for refusal against ScottishPower's plans but did not wish to give evidence at the inquiry.

Mr Lyons said: "Bearing in mind the strand of the request that suggests that the county council cannot speak with its own voice at the inquiry and to avoid any doubt this is my own ruling and I have neither sought nor been given any advice on its content."  The inspector announced that he would not subpoena evidence from Cheshire County.

He also said that he would not be issuing a witness summons on Cheshire County Council to find an officer who would be able to answer questions on the submitted (and subsequently withdrawn) evidence.  He added that he felt both parties had no intention of restricting councillors from representing their constituents.