Coal-bed methane drilling planned for Keynsham

A firm is planning to drill into coal reserves near Bath, despite opposition from the city's MP.

UK Methane said it would apply for planning permission in October for a small test rig on land in Keynsham close to the Hicks Gate roundabout.

Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster said he was opposed to fracking and coal-bed methane schemes, as they might affect Bath's hot springs.

But UK Methane said the work it was planning would not affect the springs.

The council in Bath has previously stated its opposition to drilling and fracking because of fears over the springs.

'Extremely concerned'

Mr Foster voiced concerns about such schemes in a letter to Energy Secretary Ed Davey in June.

He said: "The greatest concern is that once damage is done it will be permanent and irretrievable."

Mr Foster added he and the council were "extremely concerned about the potentially damaging impact" that drilling "may have upon the continued flow of the Bath hot springs".

Liberal Democrat council leader Paul Crossley said the council would "stand up" against drilling proposals in the area.

Gerwyn Williams, from Methane UK, said the process was already used safely worldwide.

"There's been coal mining in Bath for the past 500 years and it hasn't damaged anything," he said.

"We're as concerned as any that we preserve the Bath Spa."

Mr Williams said they would start with a small rig which would drill a small hole to test the amount of gas they could extract from the coal.

He added the firm would be giving presentations to local councils and residents about the scheme in the coming weeks.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change recently granted licences to Eden Energy and UK Methane Ltd to begin test drilling.

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