Exploratory drilling began last week in Balcombe, West Sussex, to the dismay of certain residents, a number of whom protested. Around 30 campaigners were arrested.
Speaking to Westminster colleagues at a private meeting, energy minister Michael Fallon warned that this is just the beginning, with geologists currently surveying large parts of the south – many of which are in close proximity to villages.
Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex, East Sussex, West Sussex, Surrey and Kent could be affected
Speaking about the shale gas reserves he said: “It’s from Dorset all the way along Hampshire, Sussex, East Sussex, West Sussex, perhaps all the way into a bit of Surrey and even into my county of Kent. It’s right there.
“The beauty of that… is that of course it’s underneath the commentariat. All these people writing leaders saying, ‘Why don’t they get on with shale?’ We are going to see how thick their rectory walls are, whether they like the flaring at the end of the drive!”
Protests to grow stronger
Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron has spoken out against fracking, predicting that the opposition to the controversial drilling process will grow even stronger than the campaign against wind farms.
Farron said he is “greatly worried” by the dash for gas and labelled the policy short-sighted, warning that “we will all be left to live with the consequences”.
“I am afraid the Government has seen flashing pound signs, and has not considered the long-term threats fracking poses to the countryside,” he said.
Concerns over use of fracking
The technology used in fracking can cause earth tremors, Farron warned, and buried nuclear waste could also be affected, especially in the Lake District, where his constituency is located.
The politician said he has already raised his concerns with Ed Davey, his party’s energy minister, and said is planning on doing the same with deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.
During fracking, a hole is drilled thousands of feet underground, and water and chemicals are then pumped in at high pressure in order to crack the rocks and release trapped natural gas.