Burnham-On-Sea town councillors have this week expressed concern that the controversial process of fracking for shale gas could begin in our area.

It comes after Kevin Ogilvie-White from anti-fracking group ‘Frack Free Exmoor, Quantocks and Sedgemoor’, pictured here, gave a presentation to councillors at their latest meeting this week.

The controversial process of fracking involves high-pressure water and rock solution being forced into drilled holes into rocks deep below the ground, which force out the gas from the fractured ground.

He said: “The fracking we are concerned about has not been going in safely for decades as the industry and government will have you believe.”

“There are several well known technical problems that have not been solved – including what to do with the hazardous slickwater produced in the production, which includes 1000 chemicals including lead, cadmium and arsenic.”

“The cement wall-casing of the walls has a high failure rate, with 1 in 20 wells having failures in the short term, raising concern about various toxins migrating into the water table.”

He said that communities could get £100,000 per well “and other sweeteners too.”

As we first reported here last year, the possibility that parts of the Burnham-On-Sea area could see fracking for shale gas has moved a step nearer, after the Government sold the rights to explore in 27 different parts of the west country.

Wales-based South Western Energy has secured the sole rights to explore almost all the different locations, which include Burnham-On-Sea, Highbridge, Brean and Berrow, subject to planning permission.

South Western Energy has been offered more than 20 Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences from the Government’s Oil & Gas Authority. However, the firm will have to apply for individual planning permissions to begin exploring below ground, and then more permissions to actually start fracking.

Cllr Peter Burridge-Clayton stressed that the presentation was “for information only,” adding: “This is a one-sided presentation and we as a council will want to look at the other side of the debate too before making any decisions.”

Cllr David Hogarth asked: “why on earth is this on our agenda?” but the Town Clerk explained that it is an “important issue that members need to be aware of.”

Cllr Hogarth said that “When Brunel initially built the railway there were enormous protests.”

Mr Ogilvie-White said he’d tried to ensure his presentation was “factual and not alarmist.” He pointed out that a BBC radio interview in December 2016 had raised the possibility of South Western Energy submitting a planning application to start fracking ‘just south of Weston’ this year.

Councillors said they would wait to see whether any formal planning applications are submitted before making any decisions.

Burnham’s former MP, Tessa Munt, who was at this week’s meeting, told Burnham-On-Sea.com afterwards: “I am totally opposed to fracking. Why on earth anyone would think this is a good idea in a tourism area is crazy. It would have a hugely negative impact on house prices located around the fracking wells, and could also affect our water supplies.”

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