Former Tory minister Nick Herbert has criticised plans to ‘carelessly industrialise’ rural West Sussex through shale gas development, as scientists warn that current regulation in place in the UK is inadequate to protect human health and the environment.
Herbert, MP for Arundel and South Downs, said that plans by energy firm Celtique Energie to allow hydraulic fracturing near Wisborough Green in West Sussex would make the landscape become ‘carelessly industrialised’ and would cause huge disruption to locals.
He added, that despite the government’s claims on fracking, “It’s not clear that it will lower prices, it may help to stabilise them. But I think it was overstated to suggest – as some did – that it would result in a massive reduction in gas prices as it has done in the US.”
He made clear that he did not completely oppose the practice but contested some locations – such as the picturesque village of Wisborough Green – and the way the government proposed changes to the trespass law to allow drilling on private land.
“I can see it is in the national interest to investigate an alternative source of energy but protecting landscapes such as the South Downs is also in the national interest,” he said.
Meanwhile a new report by Scientists for Global Responsibility and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has warned that the UK regulation of shale gas development lacks consistency regarding local environmental and public health risks and fail to address water-related issues and incompatibility with efforts to tackle climate change.
CIEH chief, Graham Jukes said, “In the enthusiasm to exploit new sources of energy we must assess and ensure that there are no unacceptable adverse impacts on the environment or on the health of people in the communities surrounding extraction sites.
“Despite central government encouragement for the process, local authorities should resist allowing shale gas extraction in their areas until they are satisfied on that point. We believe that there is currently insufficient evidence to provide such assurance for proposals in the UK and the precautionary principle should apply.”
Another high-profile academic, professor of geophysics at Glasgow University David Smythe, has sent a detailed critique to Celtique Energy in relation to its fracking plans in West Sussex, explaining these are “incomplete, incompetent and disingenuous”, carrying the risk of contaminating groundwater, leaking methane and affecting the values of properties.
Photo: Daniel Foster via flickr