Published: 00:01, 04 October 2013
MP Charlie Elphicke has opposed the applications for exploratory drilling in East Kent and says he will raise the issue with Ministers.
More than 200 residents first heard the news that they had the backing of their MP at a meeting at Shepherdswell Village Hall last Wednesday.
The meeting was held by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) with a panel consisting of chairman Richard Knox-Johnston, hydrologist Graham D. Warren, Dover MP Mr Elphicke and district councillor Mog Ovenden.
Mr Elphicke said: “Shale gas exploration offers the opportunity for lower energy bills but I’ve always said we have got to balance that against safety – the risk to the water aquifer and our drinking water is too great.
“So I oppose these applications. In other areas that are more suitable and don’t have the same risks we should explore it but we use the aquifer for all our drinking water. If it could be contaminated this is a risk I don’t think we should take.”
When asked if this was a conflict of interest for the Tory MP, whose leader David Cameron is in support of fracking, he said that as an MP he supports the needs of his constituency first.
Dover’s Labour parliamentary candidate Clair Hawkins was also at the meeting and said that Mr Elphicke’s views had “suddenly shifted”. She said: “After telling chair of CPRE Kent Richard Knox-Johnston he was ‘muddled up’ in a recent BBC Radio Kent interview, Mr Elphicke sat next to Mr Knox-Johnston on the panel and said he is now against the planning application.
“While I welcome this change of attitude we now need to see some action. Mr Elphicke must stand up for the community against both his friend George Osborne and his dash for gas and the fracking companies and their determination to make a fast buck with big tax breaks.”
Stuart Cox, from East Kent Friends of the Earth said: “I’m pleased Charlie Elphicke now opposes fracking in Kent and agrees the risk of water contamination is too high to take but he must now reject fracking nationwide.”
There are three applications from Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd to drill for coal bed methane gas in Guston, Shepherdswell and Tilmanstone. CPRE hydrologist Graham D. Warren explained that due to high angle faults in the coal measures under the three sites, the pressure of even exploratory drilling could fracture the already thin chalk and therefore chemicals could leak into the water supply.