The news that licences to explore the potential for fracking 100km around the Vale of Belvoir, could have far reaching consequences beyond the border of Leicestershire, according to a district councillor.
She said neighbouring Grantham and surrounding villages and towns may also be affected.
The impact of the earthquake centred north of Market Rasen in 2008, which caused damage to buildings in Grantham, should be a sobering reminder that while the regions geology may make the area attractive to those seeking fracking licenses the potential ecological and environmental impacts in this area could be severe, far reaching and irreversible.
Labour Lincolnshire County Councillor, Labour Group Leader for South Kesteven District Council and environmental campaigner Charmaine Morgan is contacting both SKDC and LCC seeking clarity on how they will handle responses to fracking applications received in neighbouring districts or counties.
She said: “I am extremely concerned at the potential impact of the fracking exploration plans proposed. The Government is gambling with our future in its bid to resolve our energy crisis.
“Despite efforts by Conservative led Lincolnshire County Council to downplay the risk of fracking in our area, surveys by the British Geological Association and a history of mineral extraction across this region highlight that Lincolnshire and some neighbouring counties have high potential for shale gas reserves making this area attractive to energy companies.
“ The Government targeted Melton Mowbray as one of its first sites to start serious exploration and launched its fracking plans from Gainsborough.
“Fracking licenses have been granted in the Vale of Belvoir on the edge of our county and our town including Harby, Barkestone-le-Vale, Granby, Knipton, Belvoir, Woolsthorpe-by-Belvoir, Muston, Bottesford, Cropwell Bishop and Cropwell Butler.
“The fracking process requires large quantities of clean water, pumps a toxic chemical cocktail into the ground through deep bore pipes which fracture the subterranean rock to encourage gas to rise to the surface.
“The toxic chemical cocktail may remain below the surface and has the potential to seep into the water table, as has been the case in Australia.
“In addition the agitation of the rocks to encourage gas in a controlled manner to rise to the surface for energy use also has the effect of potential unplanned releases of gas which emerge at the surface, and are potentially harmful, or, may also bubble into water sources causing further contamination.
“Our region relies heavily on agriculture and our country needs the food we produce.
“We cannot afford to make a mistake.
“Local people, who may be affected, regardless of which authority they live in, should be fully informed and fully consulted.”
She said further clarity is needed regarding the 100km area of Melton potentially affected by fracking proposals given this would cover a number of counties.
Mrs Morgan said: “ It is not clear how much consultation took place with Lincolnshire County Council or South Kesteven District Council regarding this matter.
“Given the 100km (62 miles) exploration area around Melton Mowbray referred to in the Melton Times we should have been more fully consulted.
“I am investigating this. Labour Policy states that the current environmental impact assessment of fracking licenses in Britain is inadequate and needs significant improvement.
“Locally county councils are responsible for making planning decisions relating to mineral and gas extraction whilst district councils are consultees. Concerns were raised at Lincolnshire County Council following a briefing session on fracking planning process.
“They included observations that whilst local planning authorities are involved some decisions have been removed by the Government specifically for fracking. In a bid to speed up the process, and a move that some argue helps the energy companies, some material environmental planning considerations have been pushed up the line to Westminster with the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive having a role as well.
“Concerns were raised regarding the need for significant quantities of clean water and an apparent lack of a robust monitoring process which currently largely relies on waiting for an issue to arise before action is taken.
“Some members also noted that concerns raised over risk of seepage of gas were side stepped by the DECC presenter who focussed on how the drill site is managed rather than on potential subsequent subterranean gas leakage and potential contamination of water tables which may emerge.
“There were concerns as to just how objective decisions made by the Government departments will be given it is the object of DECC to deliver more energy to meet national demand. The Environment Agency does not have local knowledge relying heavily on desktop surveys for information.
“There is a danger that the broader impacts of applications near local authority boundaries are not fully examined and those concerned about fracking in our area need to work together.
“Much potential damage is underground with fracking sites having a relatively misleading small footprint on the surface leading to the false impression they do not have a significant environmental impact.
“There is evidence of the irreversible damage fracking has done to watertables in Australia reported by Friends of the Earth. Fracking has led to gas leaks and contamination of water supplies.
“Despite reassurances from applicants that they will line the fracking pipes more in the UK than they did in Australia and the US as stated we cannot control what happens once the cocktail of chemicals used in the process to force out the gas are pumped into the ground under pressure below and seep out from the initial site. Nor can we control the risk of undermining land above.
“ It is important that we all work together to ensure the potential environmental impact of fracking on our communities is recorded and our concerns heard.
“It would make more sense for the Government to have a policy that strengthens renewable energy delivery and energy saving measures, than to continue pursuing an energy policy reliant on fossil fuels which are running out.”