Herbert likened the potential damage fracking could cause to the countryside with the impact of new housing developments. Speaking to the Telegraph he said: “There is a lot of concern about the impact of new housing in west Sussex. This [fracking] is seen as a second threat to the countryside.
“People don’t know – people are worried about the implications and they don’t have enough information to judge how damaging it will be.”
‘Fear of the unknown’
The former minister called on the government to share more information on the process with local communities which may be affected by fracking.
He said: “It is the fear of the unknown that is exacerbating local concerns. People understand the national arguments about the need for secure and cheap energy but they just don’t know how much this is going to damage the local environment.
“What you are talking about here is very beautiful and tranquil countryside that people are keen to preserve. At the moment it is the unknown – we just don’t know what the potential impact and scale of this is. There does need to be more information.”
Protests in West Sussex
Fracking is a controversial technique which consists in fracturing underground rocks using water and chemicals to free reserves of oil and gas. The method is currently being employed in the USA where it has resulted in a significant decrease in energy prices.
Last Friday, Cuadrilla, an energy company, began exploratory drilling in West Sussex. Although the company is not carrying out fracking at present, a number of protestors gathered amidst fears the process could take place in the future. Campaigners were able to delay the drilling by temporarily blocking access to the site.
Attention is now expected to be focussed in Fernhurst in the South Downs National Park, where energy company Celtique Energie is hoping to carry out exploratory drilling next year.
A spokesperson for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said: “Fracking will only be allowed in the Weald if it is safe and poses no risk to the environment.”