Why proposals for a 'hydrogen town' in Cheshire fuels heated debate

Video report by ITV Granada reporter Tim Scott

Residents of a Cheshire village claim they are being used as 'lab rats' and 'steamrolled' into accepting Hydrogen fuel to heat their homes.

Whitby, on the south bank of the Mersey just outside Ellesmere Port, could become the UK’s first “hydrogen village”, to assess the alternative source for heating and cooking.

Initial plans selected 2,000 households in the village, but now, there are concerns the whole town could be put into the trial, after Gas company Cadent said it planned to apply for up to 10,000 homes to be involved.

Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders said Cadent's proposal was put forward without his support or the local council and residents should be properly consulted first.

Hydrogen is seen by some as the ideal fuel to replace natural gas in homes and help the government hit its climate targets.

The impact of the switch is being analysed, along with Redcar in the North East, for potential conversion to 100% hydrogen heating, using the existing gas network and new appliances to update up to 2,000 properties.

Residents are concerned about plans to turn Ellesmere Port into a huge hydrogen town Credit: ITV Granada

Whitby resident Karen Cross says she and others are worried the conversion to Hydrogen would affect their house insurance and mortgages.

"We were told there would be 2,000 houses in our area, that is was a trial and not a done deal. They said they would be testing to see whether it worked."

They also have reservations about how safe Hydrogen is and whether it is a greener fuel source at all.

"I nearly cried at the news, we are being steamrollered, run over by big industry, by people who have got so much money and so much power, that we mean nothing to them".

Justin Madders said when residents talk about the plan, they feel it is a done deal, but it really needs local informed consent.

He said, "I think Cadent have jumped the gun by pushing ahead with plans for a town before they have got any local consent at all.'

Plans to turn Ellesmore Port into a pilot 'Hydrogen town and not just village' Credit: ITV Granada

In a statement Marc Clarke, from Cadent said, "The Hydrogen Town pilot is at the very early stages."

"A decision on which Towns will be taken forward to the next stage, has not been decided and won't be announced until later in the year."

"We are aware that the residents have many valid questions about the project and we are addressing these."

"We ask residents to provide us with feedback and this will be submitted as part of our evidence to the Government."