A dozen anti-fracking campaigners welcomed councillors attending the full Council meeting at Shire Hall on Friday (16th December), when a Motion on fracking in the County was to be considered. After a short debate, Council voted unanimously to adopt the Motion introduced by Kerne Bridge Councillor Paul Newman –
“The Executive be asked to consider the risks of hydraulic fracturing, and the high importance of tourism income to this County and to write accordingly to the Secretary of State to ask the Government to consider withholding any licence which would allow fracking and any associated hydrocarbon extraction processes in or under Herefordshire’s vitally important Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”
As expected, the debate focused mostly on the local rather than wider impacts of fracking, with one contributor saying that other areas of the country not as blessed with natural beauty as Herefordshire ought to be the places where fracking is introduced.
An amendment tabled by Green Councillor Felicity Norman asking for the Motion to cover all of Herefordshire and not just the County’s AONBs was defeated.
It is worth noting that legislation passed at Westminster last December already prevents fracking operations on the surface in a National Park or AONB. What that legislation doesn’t restrict are
- Fracking operations outside but adjacent to the AONB which use horizontal drilling to reach under the AONB
- Full visibility from within the AONB of fracking rigs in the vicinity
- Heavy road traffic from fracking operations using roads within the AONB
- Any extraction process for Coal Bed Methane which does not use fracking
The latter point means that should a company take up the licences for Herefordshire and find it is possible to extract coal bed methane without the expense of high volume fracking, they are not prevented from setting up operations inside the Wye Valley AONB, subject to planning permission.
However, on the subject of planning permission for fracking, this government has already shown In Lancashire that it is prepared to overturn local council decisions to refuse. Should the lapsed licences for fracking in Herefordshire be re-issued to another company, we are still very much at risk.
The Hereford Times report can be viewed here