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Fracking debate tonight at Christ Church University in Canterbury

A champion for fracking will go head-to-head with opponents during a public debate in Canterbury this evening.

Gerwyn Williams, chairman of Coastal Oil and Gas, holds fracking licenses for east Kent and will cross swords with five anti-fracking campaigners at Canterbury Christ Church University.

His firm has planning permission to drill an exploratory well at Woodnesborough. Last year it applied for consent to drill at Shepherdswell, Guston and Tilmanstone, only to withdraw the applications later.

The Cuadrilla hydraulic fracking drill site in Balcombe in Sussex

The Cuadrilla hydraulic fracking drill site in Balcombe in Sussex

But the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) says Coastal Oil and Gas has not done enough research into the geology of east Kent.

 “Water resources in Kent are already seriously stressed – there is a danger that if fracking went ahead we could damage the aquifer that provides most of the county’s water" - Richard Knox-Johnston, CPRE

CPRE Kent vice-president Richard Knox-Johnston said: “Water resources in Kent are already seriously stressed – there is a danger that if fracking went ahead we could damage the aquifer that provides most of the county’s water.

“Plus, we fear that water supply boreholes could be damaged causing pollution which would threaten public health as well as harm environmental quality, agriculture and wetland habitats.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a method designed to extract gas and oil from shale rock.

Fracking involves drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.

Mr Williams hit back at the CPRE comments, saying there is no evidence fracking would damage the environment.

He said: “There has been a huge amount of drilling across Kent over decades, and none of those boreholes have led to any kind of environmental issue or water contamination in the area, so why should any borehole drilled now, with much better technology available, cause a problem for water supplies?

“There’s almost no chance of anything going wrong, because it is so well regulated by different agencies and regulations had to be flawlessly adhered to.”

East Kent Against Fracking at 10 Downing Street

East Kent Against Fracking at 10 Downing Street

Mr Williams is joined on the pro-fracking side by Nick Riley, a geologist and director of the consultancy Carboniferous Ltd.

The panellists on the anti-fracking side are chartered engineer Mike Hill, Thanet Council Green Party member Cllr Ian Driver, geophysics professor David Smythe, Paul Stevens, a Distinguished Fellow at Chatham House, and campaigner Julie Wassmer.

The debate starts at 7.30pm.

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