ANTI-FRACKING campaigners in Westbury have said they are not confident Wiltshire Council will protect the area from the threat of gas drilling, after a council in North Yorkshire gave the go-ahead for fracking near a rural village – despite overwhelming local opposition.
The Frack Free Westbury group says its fight is gathering steam but that residents and councils must take action before it is too late.
The comments come in the wake of nationwide uproar after a council in North Yorkshire gave permission for a company to start fracking tests near Kirby Misperton. The tests will be the first in the UK in five years, after fracking in Lancashire was blamed for minor earthquakes in the area.
Westbury group spokesman Bill Jarvis, who recently appeared on ITV News West Country to speak about the Westbury campaign told White Horse News, “North Yorkshire county council’s decision was a mistake and driven through by a Conservative majority. They needed to be very brave, given Government pressure on the whole process anyway, but they weren’t.
“It’s a very scary outcome in terms of planning process. I’m not at all confident that Wiltshire Council would represent our best interests if the same type of application came to Westbury.
“The council is caught between heavily constrained, unfit planning regulations and central Government ‘calling in’ the application and making the decision itself.
“Given that the players making the decision announced to George Osborne last year that they would do everything in their power to push fracking through, there is only one way any Government decision will go.”
Frack Free Westbury has been holding film showings and meetings to rally support for its fight against plans to search for gas in the Westbury area.
The threat caught public attention last year when South Western Energy Ltd was offered government licences to search for coalbed methane underneath Westbury and the surrounding villages. There has been no evidence of any further commitment to exploration.
Bill continued, “We really feel for the people in North Yorkshire and admire and respect their community strength. The whole community came together and parish, town and district councils declared against the application.
“Over 4,000 comments – over 99% of the total – were made opposing the application. There were over 70 objectors who stood up and made statements at the planning meeting, which took over a day.
“It seems therefore that a completely undemocratic decision has been taken.
“Wiltshire Council needs to be brave and make a clear position early on to keep Wiltshire free of fracking. This will at least send a message to potential operators that they aren’t welcome here.”
Wiltshire Council said last year that it would be unlikely to permit fracking, and did not believe there was enough fuel in the area to make it worthwhile.
Westbury Town Council has not given an official stance and has said it will not do so unless a planning application is submitted.
Frack Free Westbury is a small campaign group opposing fracking under the belief it could cause earthquakes, health problems and air and water pollution.
Fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – is an oil and gas extraction method that involves pumping pressurised fluid into the ground to shatter the ground and release fossil fuels to be burnt in power stations.
To find out more about local campaigners join Frack Free Westbury on Facebook or go to www.whitehorsewestbury.com and www.keepwiltshirefrackfree.org or email email@example.com