Fears over North Herts ‘fracking’ plans

A specially-created map sourced from the Department of Energy and Climate Change which shows the are

A specially-created map sourced from the Department of Energy and Climate Change which shows the area which could be subjected to fracking - Credit: Archant

ENERGY companies could be given the chance to drill deep into the countryside to extract oil and natural gas, prompting fears that ‘fracking’ may blight communities.

Fracking involves fracturing rocks deep underground with water and chemicals to extract oil and natural gas, and has been blamed for earthquakes, explosions and health problems in areas where it has been carried out.

The Government is set to launch the UK's 14th onshore licensing round next year, and it seems North Hertfordshire is being viewed as a rich energy source.

The Comet understands a request has been made to the Department of Energy and Climate Change for a plot of land - which includes Letchworth GC, Baldock, Stotfold and Ashwell - to be added as an option for gas firms to seek obtaining a drilling licence.

It is possible, the Comet understands, that the department was written to by a geologist because an energy company has shown an interest.

Karen Harmel, of the North Herts Green Party, said: "It doesn’t surprise me at all. At some stage North Herts will be affected and it's a big worry.

"I am 100 per cent against fracking. It does damage to the countryside, can have an effect on water, and its worrying on every level."

Most Read

She added: "Even with fracking, we’ll only have enough energy to last another 20 or 30 years. The Government should be investing more money in renewable energy."

The last time a licensing round closed was in February 2008, when the plot was not listed as a licence possibility.

Since then the American shale gas revolution has turned heads in the UK Government, with energy bills cut dramatically using the new technique.

The licensing round will see companies first express an interest in using land for oil or gas extraction. If a licence is granted, planning permission will still be needed for work such as fracking to be carried out.

Oliver Heald, MP for North East Herts, said: "I'll be looking into this closely, because if something is going to be done then it needs to be done carefully. We need to protect our countryside but, from what I understand, the geology of the area means it is not suitable for fracking."