What would happen if fracking came to Worksop?
This is the question on the minds of residents after fracking moved one step closer to the town this year.
The fears were sparked when licences to carry out “shale gas and oil exploration” in Worksop, which could lead to fracking, were awarded to Swiss petrochemical giant Ineos by the Government in August. The licences cover areas of land across Nottinghamsire and South Yorkshire equating to 250 sq kilometres – and land to the north-west of Worksop, near Shireoaks and Rhodesia, has been named as one of the potential exploration sites.
Posting on your Guardian’s Facebook page, Tracey Holmes said: “You only need to look at the problems suffered in other countries where they have fracked to know it’s a terrible idea.”
Connor Wigley described the plans as “shocking”, while Michelle Curtis said fracking “should not be carried out anywhere”.
And Doug McDonald said: “Why are we not looking at renewable energy as an alternative?”
The fracking process is strictly controlled in the UK, and Ineos will still need to apply for planning permission and secure environmental permits from Nottinghamshire County Council before it can carry out any exploration in Worksop.
Though the council said an application has not yet been filed for the town, it is understood INEOS is expected to apply for an exploration in Misson, near Retford, over the coming months.
Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock in order to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are then injected into the rock at a high pressure, and this allows the gas to flow out to the head of the drilling well.
Despite backing from Prime Minister David Cameron, fracking has not taken place in the UK since 2011, when the practice by UK energy company Cuadrilla near Blackpool caused earth tremors.
However, onshore oil and gas reserves are becoming increasingly sought after, as existing offshore reserves decline. Among environmental risks such a contaminated water, concerns raised over fracking include a drop in house prices and increased traffic and noise congestion.
However, INEOS insists its explorations will create “thousands of jobs” and allow the UK to meet its climate change obligations using a “homegrown source of energy”.
It is also predicted fracking could result in cheaper energy bills.
Gary Haywood, INEOS chief executive officer, said: “Shale gas is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that the UK cannot afford to miss.
“North Sea oil created great wealth for the UK and Shale gas can do the same.It will help secure manufacturing, deliver investment and create thousands of jobs, provide us with greater energy security.
“It will also help us to meet our climate change obligations using our own home-grown source of energy.
“We recognise shale gas extraction is a controversial issue, but steps will be taken to engage with communities to accurately convey the risks and rewards.”
John Mann, MP for Bassetlaw, said it was ‘essential’ that the residents in the district ‘had their say’ on the matter. He told the Guardian: “Earlier in the year I was the only Nottinghamshire member of Parliament who voted to stop fracking completely until a full independent assessment of the risks and benefits had taken place. We should have further information on fracking and then local people should have the final decision.
“It is essential that local people have their say on any planning applications that come forward. I can advise any Worksop residents who feel that they might be affected on how best to oppose fracking applications.
“In Parliament I have consistently called for the Government to ensure that there is no fracking at all within 2km of any village or town. This guarantee has so far been refused. Last year thousands of people in Bassetlaw told me that they backed my 2km plan, a model which has been tested in Australia.”
Sally Gill, head of Planning at Nottinghamshire County Council said: “The council has not received any planning applications for exploration, testing or production of shale gas using fracking or any other method of extraction to date. However, an application for exploration is expected by the end of October for a site north of Misson.
“It has been well publicised that Island Gas (IGas) Ltd has expressed an interest in the site and an application for groundwater monitoring boreholes associated with potential future shale gas development was submitted to the County Council in July.
“We want to reassure residents that any planning applications made in Nottinghamshire that are forthcoming in the future will be widely publicised and consulted on before any decision is made on their suitability.
“The planning process is part of a comprehensive regime of regulation involving a number of agencies that any proposal would need to satisfy. The three phases of development - exploration, testing and extraction - can only take place where the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has issued a licence under the Petroleum Act.
“If a licence is issued to an operator and they are ready to progress to the next stage, they would make contact with the relevant Minerals Planning Authority (Nottinghamshire County Council in this instance) and other statutory bodies, including the Environment Agency and Natural England in addition to a community engagement stage to help design any proposals.
“The Council would then need to determine if an Environmental Impact Assessment is required, and its scope, before any application is submitted by the operator. The planning application would be advertised and open for consultation.
“In the meantime the operator would apply for relevant permits from the Environment Agency.
“If the application is ultimately granted planning permission and the necessary Environment Agency permits, the DECC would finally be required to grant consent for the well.”
David Larder, chairman of the Bassetlaw Against Fracking group, has led an anti-fracking campaign in the district for years. He said: “If shale gas is found from just one borehole in our area, don’t think it will stop with one. It won’t. Not only does one well run out of gas, it is commercially uneconomic to drill a few. Please do not let our countryside be ruined with drills, tanks and many pipelines. And remember each drilling pad is on an area the size of a football field pitch.”