Ben Woods, Business writer
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Advances in technology have made Norfolk a target for fracking, according to a county council report.
West and north Norfolk have been pinpointed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) as areas where shale gas extraction could take place.
And while neither DECC –nor Norfolk County Council– have granted drilling licences within the region, this could change when the government opens the doors to a new round of applications later this year, the working group study has found.
The interim report to go before the environment, transport and development overview and scrutiny panel at County Hall on Tuesday aims to clarify Norfolk County Council’s policy on the extraction of shale gas.
“To date no licenses have been issued in respect of sites in Norfolk,” the report stated. “However, it is of interest to Norfolk as previous licensing rounds have included options for areas in both north and west Norfolk.
“Improvements in recent years in the technology involved mean that some areas may be more of interest than in the past.”
Fracking in land has been publicly backed by the prime minster as a means of creating new jobs and securing the UK’s future energy supply.
But the process has come under fire from communities and environmental campaigners across England amid fears that it could lead to the contamination of ground water or spark seismic tremors.
Hydraulic fracking involves drilling into the ground before pumping in a mixture of water and chemicals at high pressures to break rocks and release the shale gas trapped inside.
Tim East, liberal democrat country councillor for Costessey and a member of the working group, said the study was investigating what the council’s policy guidelines would be if it received a fracking application.
“This is to ensure that we are not caught short, so we have set guidelines and can react to any application in a measured way having consulted the experts within the field,” he said.
“This is only an interim report and there are other people that we want to speak to before we come to any conclusion,” he said.
The council’s role as the mineral planning authority means it can set out the planning policy for fracking.
And while the council does not have a specific policy to deal with fracking applications, it can consider proposals using existing planning guidelines for onshore drilling.
But if the council wishes to change its planning policy it must pass a test to see if its guidelines are in line with the national policy, which is to support fracking.
Mr East said central government may support fracking applications, but a proposal would not be approved by local government if it had a negative impact on the surrounding environment.
He said: “If you have identified a borehole near a church tower, for the sake of argument, and drilling that site would lead to the building’s foundations being disrupted, then the material considerations would outweigh the national planning guidance.”
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