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Fracking fears over coalfield plans

By Paul Francis

Rosie Rechter, of East Kent Against Fracking

Rosie Rechter, of East Kent Against Fracking

by political editor Paul Francis



Concerns have been raised over three applications for gas drilling in the former Kent Coalfield, with opponents saying it could lead to “full-blown” fracking.

The three applications being dealt with by Kent County Council are in east Kent for methane gas exploration, rather than shale gas. They are for one-year licences to drill exploratory boreholes.

The company behind them is Coastal Oil and Gas and relate to sites at Shepherdswell, Tilmanstone and Guston in east Kent. It already has planning permission to conduct exploratory gas drilling at a site near Woodnesborough, also in east Kent.

Thanet Green councillor, Ian Driver said if exploratory drilling led to searching for shale gas, “east Kent could become the next Balcombe.” The techniques for gas extraction of both methane and shale gas were broadly similar, he said.

“We totally oppose these plans. Exploratory drilling, possibly leading to full-blown fracking is a serious threat to the Kentish Stour aquifer, which supplies water to tens of thousands of homes in Ashford, Dover, Deal, Canterbury and Thanet.”

Rosemary Rechter of the campaign group East Kent Against Fracking (EKAF), said if the company was to find any kind of gas it would risk “possible subsidence, earthquakes, major disruption and industrialisation of the garden of England as well as economic loss to tourism and agriculture.”

Green county councillor Martin Whybrow said he hoped the county council, which will determine the applications, should not rush them through.

“There are very complex associated issues. People, including KCC’s own councillors and officers, need time to find out more, as reflected in some of the early optimistic and naive pronouncements from the county council.”

Kent County Council has emphasised the three applications are not to drill for shale gas.

However, some critics believe companies are masking their real intentions by submitting drilling applications for methane gas when they hope to discover shale gas.

The Kent CPRE has indicated the geology of the area means there are risks posed by the technology and extraction techniques which could lead to the contamination of the water supply.

Consultation on the three applications runs until October 7 and Kent County Council is expected to decide whether to give the go-ahead in late November.

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