WINCHAM residents would be very concerned about the geological impact of fracking in their area, community leader Annie Makepeace told chemical company boss Gary Haywood.

Cllr Makepeace is chairman of Wincham Parish Council, and voiced her concerns at Wednesday’s council meeting, at which Mr Haywood spoke about possible fracking operations in the area.

A licence granted to INEOS Upstream for an area taking in Wincham allows it to explore for oil or gas possibly trapped in commercially viable quantities underground.

Mr Haywood is CEO of INEOS Shale, the company’s shale gas operating business.

“A huge concern around here would be the geological appropriateness for this,” said Cllr Makepeace.

“This affects our entire village, and we have a history of things going wrong because of subsidence and all these holes.

“This is top of our concerns, and we must make sure this is not underestimated.”

Cheshire West and Chester councillor Norman Wright said: “Northwich has just spent thousands and thousands filling the brine shafts in so we can build in Northwich.

“It has cost a lot of money because it was all unstable, and we are always concerned about the stability of Northwich.”

Mr Haywood said the company was at the start of work on identifying sites for drilling, which he likened to “keyhole surgery”.

“We are talking about a bore hole three kilometres down, and if you are going through an area of salt you have to be aware of that – but that is what we do,” he said.

“I would not want to do this if I didn’t think it could be done safely, and would not want to be involved with it.

“In the history of shale gas production there have been about a million wells drilled, mostly in the US and Canada, but there have been only nine earth tremors which have been felt.

“In most of the areas they haven’t got the requirement to do 3D seismic first, which we do, so there’s virtually no chance of there being any of those sort of events.”

He said the UK was one of the most tightly regulated countries in the world in terms of oil and gas production.

“We will come and explain every step of the way to you, and keep you informed on what we are doing,” he added.

Cllr Sarah Henshall questioned the benefit to Wincham of fracking in the area, other than the promise of six per cent of any revenues from gas development to home and landowners.

“At the risk of being a NIMBY, there is not a huge amount of benefit going to come directly into Wincham,” she said.

The parish council is to submit questions it may have to INEOS.