A STORM has blown up over the future of Hilbre Island with the publication of a Labour newspaper claiming Tories are secretly plotting to sell the site for industrialised gas and oil production.

The four-page “West Wirral Herald” was distributed throughout Hoylake and West Kirby this week with headlines saying it has “uncovered Tory lies” about plans for the island.

Wirral West Conservative MP Esther McVey said the paper was scaremongering and branded the assertions made in the publication “as low as politics can get.”

The tabloid-size paper says it has exposed the “Tory timeline of mistrust” over the controversial issue of fracking and Underground Coal Gasification at Hilbre and the Dee.

It warns readers that although Labour-controlled Wirral Council will fight any proposals to exploit Hilbre, its decisions “can be overturned by the Tory-led government chief Eric Pickles.”

And it says that if the islands were to be industrialised “The quality of life may be affected and house prices could suffer.”

Ms McVey told the Globe: “People can now see what they can expect from the Labour Party right up to the election.

“Devoid of policies, they have chosen instead to make personal attacks.

“Labour have nothing to say on the economy, nothing to say on welfare, immigration, Europe or how to get ourselves out of the recession they presided over, so instead they have resorted to scaremongering and desperate mudslinging.”

Fears for the future of West Wirral coastal areas were first raised after the awarding of a licence for UCG exploratory operations in the estuary.

But while the permit covers 6,900 hectares of the waterway, Hilbre Islands are within the Dee Estuary Special Area of Conservation and Dee Estuary Special Protection Area – a network of protected sites stretching across Europe.

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Wirral West MP Esther McVey.

Ms McVey added: “I wrote to residents of Wirral West who were concerned by the scare stories put about by Labour. 

"I set out the background and facts to underground coal gasification – the whole issue of UCG began in 2009 - when, under the previous government - Ed Miliband gave the green light for UCG in Liverpool Bay.  

"He even told Parliament he wanted to move forward with UCG . I don't - I will never support UCG at Hilbre Island or in the Dee Estuary.

“For Labour to be prepared to panic local residents with this relentless scaremongering for their own political ends is about as low as politics can get.”

Cluff Natural Resources holds five licences – including for the Dee area – which are the first steps on the way towards permission for UCG operations across the UK.

The company has explained its main priorities are centred on other parts of the country, but said: “Wirral is still one of the licence areas, it’s not ruled out.”

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Wirral Council leader Phil Davies.

Earlier this month Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil Davies hit out at Prime Minister David Cameron after comments he made about fracking in the borough.

Mr Cameron said that the extraction of unconventional gas can lead to competitive energy prices and creatae jobs and wealth locally, adding that if Wirral Council does not want fracking to take place at Hilbre Island, they simply do not give permission.

But Cllr Davies said: "I am totally opposed to this method of extracting gas on environmental and safety grounds.

"I am not prepared to accept what amounts to a bribe whereby an area will receive a financial sum if they agree to a well being dug for the purposes of fracking. I am not prepared to expose residents and future generations to potential ecological disaster for any price."

He said the council had stated its opposition to shale gas or coal bed methane testing or extraction, but added: "The Government however has passed a law taking away peoples’ right to object to fracking under their land. 

"Although this council would refuse permission for fracking to take place on Hilbre Island – it is possible for organisations to frack under Hilbre Island using a drill based elsewhere and we can do nothing to stop it."