Council to give Whitby residents a say on the hydrogen village proposals
Cheshire West and Chester Council is setting out further details of its plans to support residents of Whitby, Ellesmere Port, to have a democratic voice on the proposals for a hydrogen village trial in their area.
The proposal by Cadent, the gas network provider, following a Government competition, plans to trial a change in domestic heating from natural gas to hydrogen, starting in 2025. Electric heating alternatives will also be available, alongside support for energy efficiency measures. Whitby in Ellesmere Port, alongside Redcar in the North East, will be considered by the Government for the trial.
At a well-attended public meeting on 28 February, hosted by the Council in Ellesmere Port Civic Hall, commitments were made to listen and record the views of local residents.
In a written statement to the meeting, the Government committed that: "Strong community engagement and support is vital for the success of a project like this. That is why evidence of substantial local support, validated by an independent external source such as a local council, is one of our key assessment criteria in selecting a location. We will not go ahead with a trial in an area where there is not strong local support."
As well as measures to engage local residents and validate the integrity of information on local residents' views, the Council announced that it will conduct a poll of local residents later this summer. The process will need to be non-statutory and non-binding on Government, but will meet best practice in transparency and integrity. In response to requests made at the public event, the process, including the question to be asked, will be subject to consultation with residents.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of the Council, said: "We have heard residents loud and clear in their request to clearly and transparently establish the degree of local support for the Hydrogen Village proposal. The results of the poll will be fed back to Government before a decision is made later this year. While it cannot be legally binding, we expect the Government to respect the outcome."
The proposed timetable is as follows.
- Mid/late May - Publication of a consultation document on the procedures for the vote
- June - Feedback results from consultation on the format of the poll
- July - Vote to be conducted, with postal returns by a specified date, and counting of the results
- August - Outcome of poll, feedback to residents and Government
- From autumn - Government decision expected on whether the trial will proceed
In the meantime, residents will be supported to have full information about the implications of the trial for their households, the environment and the local community. The Council understands that Cadent's engineers will continue to provide house-by-house assessments and advice, and residents are encouraged to visit the Hydrogen Experience Centre on McGarva Way.
The Council will continue to press for all residents' questions about the proposal to be answered. A new online resource has being established by the Council to share FAQs and further information about how residents' views will be collected and provided to the Government.
View the Whitby Hydrogen Village proposal page on the Council's Climate Emergency Hub.