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Wiltshire Council could block fracking plans

WILTSHIRECouncil last month announced that it would be unlikely to permit fracking in the county, and said exploration would cause unnecessary distress to residents.

In a briefing sent to local  councillors the authority deemed that the four exploration licences proposed for Wiltshire had not given enough consideration to specially protected areas, and should be removed from the Government’s list.

The briefing read, “It is the Council’s view that proposed wells close to Natura 2000 sites would be highly unlikely to pass an appropriate assessment and therefore it would be unable to approve planning permission for such wells.

“Exploration and production activities would therefore effectively be excluded from significant areas within the blocks, indicating that these blocks should be removed from the current round of licences.”

Natura 2000 sites are  internationally recognised areas of special conservation including the River Avon, Salisbury Plain, and the habitats of two bat species (horseshoe and Bechstein’s) near Bath and Bradford on Avon.

The council argued that, because the protected areas would likely prevent any planning permission, granting the licences would be a “missed opportunity to direct the industry away from areas of abortive exploratory work [which would create] unnecessary tension within local communities.”

Wiltshire Council also explained that it does not consider there to be enough fuel in the ground to make exploration worthwhile.

The briefing reads, “The Council is not aware of any geotechnical analysis that indicates any shale oil and gas deposits to be sufficiently mature within Wiltshire warranting the granting of licences within the area. Without appropriate evidence of mature deposits there should be no granting of licences.”

Four licences are proposed for Wiltshire; none include Melksham, but the town is in a ‘potential zone of impact’.

The Government’s consultation is now closed but the proposals can be read  online at http://bit.ly/1Jq URV0

The four areas concerning Wiltshire are referenced ST84, ST85, ST94 and ST95. Maps of each affected area can be found on pages 114, 115, 116 and 117 of Appendix E.