A controversial method of extracting gas could be allowed across West Norfolk, including at important environmental sites, it has been revealed.
The borough is included in a Government map confirming where it would consider issuing licenses for the drilling method known as fracking. The map shows that around two thirds of England would be considered for a licence.
Dr Rupert Read, the Green Party’s lead candidate in the east of England for next year’s European elections, said: “This shows the extent to which fracking could affect people’s lives in Norfolk and across the UK. The report suggests that up to 2,880 wells could be drilled in the UK creating over 100 million cubic meters of waste water. Communities near fracking sites will have dozens of heavy trucks passing by every day, causing noise and air pollution.”
The process of fracking involves drilling down into the earth and directing a high-pressure water mixture at the rock to release the shale gas inside.
The Prime Minister has insisted the method is safe and has minimal impact on the landscape, while offering “massive” economic opportunities.
The Government believes Britain’s shale reserves could provide enough gas to meet the country’s needs for forty or fifty years. It also hopes it would create tens of thousands of jobs and reduce household energy bills, benefits which have been seen as a result of shale gas discoveries in America.
Environmentalists are unhappy about the huge amounts of water that must be transported to fracking sites and potential for chemicals escaping into groundwater. There are also worries that the fracking process can cause small earth tremors.
The Government’s map does not rule out allowing fracking in areas such as the internationally important conservation sites around The Wash, Roydon Common and Dersingham Bog.
Philip Pearson, RSPB senior conservation officer for Eastern England, said: “Damage to these incredible sites for wildlife is unacceptable, and the RSPB will continue to review information for any plans and projects, on a case-by-case basis, that could cause such an impact.”
Norfolk County Council formed a working group to consider the likelihood and potential impacts of fracking earlier this year. Planning permission would have to be gained at sites.
Minutes of the first meeting said: “There are other areas of the country that are more likely to yield bigger rewards, making them more attractive to businesses. Therefore, fracking in Norfolk is unlikely in the short-medium term.”