FRIENDS of the Earth has written to Trafford Council to warn that it risks a legal challenge if the local authority grants permission for coal bed methane (CBM) extraction in Davyhulme.

Energy company IGas has had planning permission for the site – which is situated between United Utilities’ Davyhulme Waste Water Treatment Works and the M60 – since 2010, and recently sought to extend the time limit within which the planning permission can be implemented.

However, at a planning committee meeting on March 12, councillors delayed making a decision on the application until they could attend a technical briefing on the CBM process.

The planning documentation outlines that no rock fracturing or ‘fracking’ takes place during CBM, but it is an ‘unconventional gas’ resource, as it refers to gas trapped in deep underground rocks.

But Friends of the Earth (FOE) has criticised the decision by planning officers not to subject the application to an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Helen Rimmer, FOE North West campaigner, said: “It is shocking that Trafford council could grant permission for 25 years of coal bed methane extraction without fully understanding the environmental risks.

“Evidence from Australia shows extracting methane gas trapped in coal seams has serious impacts on the environment and health of local communities including air pollution and water contamination.

“Instead of pursuing risky unconventional gas, the Government and Greater Manchester authorities should be supporting clean renewable energy and cutting energy waste.”

An FOE spokesman added: “IGas recently announced it had found shale gas at a drilling site at Barton Moss in Salford, despite only having permission to drill for coal bed methane.

“Residents fear that IGas will also explore for shale gas – which requires the risky process of fracking to extract it – at the Davyhulme site.”

A spokesman for IGas said: “As far as Davyhulme is concerned, this is a routine extension of a planning permission that went in, in September last year.

“It merely gives us an option. There are no current plans for any development at this time.

“We have not announced shale as at Barton.”

A council spokesman said: “Trafford Council confirmed that it would appear from the information it has received from the applicant that this application is for the exploration, production and extraction of Coal Bed Methane only which involves different techniques to fracking.

“It also stated that all planning applications are considered on their merits and in line with planning law and policies.”

Plans show that the area cited for the lateral drilling within the Igas site spans underneath Peel Energy’s recently approved Barton Renewable Enery Plant (BREP) site.

The Breathe Clean Air Group (BCAG) has campaigned against BREP since 2010.

A BCAG spokesman said: “We fully support the steps that Friends of the Earth are taking to stop this planning application and we will also be working to put an end to this development.

“Our air and our health are being attacked, instead of being protected and improved; this must change.”