FEARS that the “pristine” Cotswolds landscape could be targeted for the controversial process of fracking have been voiced.
The concerns come after it was revealed swathes of Britain, including the Cotswolds, could be opened up for fracking and other forms of oil and gas exploration.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) is to announce a new round of onshore oil and gas exploration licensing, with about two thirds of the UK potentially on offer to exploration companies.
Areas include south Devon, north Norfolk, Yorkshire and much of London. But the news the list also includes the Cotswolds, has left councillors concerned.
Fracking – which has revolutionised the energy industry in the US – is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside.
Cotswold District councillor Mark Annett, ward member for Campden-Vale, said: “On the one hand people want energy but on the other hand they don’t want the source near them. As far as the Cotswolds is concerned, yes it would be a pity if fracking does upset the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
“The question everybody has to ask themselves, where do we get energy from and how do we get it? I think the worry about it is whether the system of fracking is actually a safe system.
“I think if they are going to employ this system, I really feel they need to be certain it’s a safe process.
“Fracking does seem to be controversial and I would imagine for the Cotswolds it would be a bad thing. I think it’s shocking they want it anywhere.”
District councillor Robert Dutton, ward member for Moreton, said the subject of fracking is an extremely sensitive one.
“I’m very passionate about the environment and keeping the Cotswolds pristine,” he said.
“But on the other hand, I take quite a concerned view of energy supplies in Britain.
“If we’re going to retain competitive industries we need to have creative sources of energy.
“We would have to look at it very carefully if anyone came a put in a planning application for a fracking facility and if it was in the Area of Outstanding natural Beauty we really would have to look at it very carefully.”
A report is now due to be published suggesting Britain could be in for a new oil bonanza, with vast potential resources in the shale rocks beneath large parts of southern England between Weymouth in the southwest and the Weald in the southeast.