Burnham-On-Sea’s MP James Heappey has this week defended his decision to vote in favour of fracking for shale gas, despite an attack from the town’s former MP Tessa Munt.

It comes after we reported here that the Government’s Oil & Gas Authority has sold the rights to explore in 27 different parts of the west country. Wales-based South Western Energy has secured the rights to explore several areas, including Burnham-On-Sea, Highbridge, Brean and Berrow.

Burnham’s former Liberal Democrat MP Tessa Munt has criticized Conservative James Heappey’s decision to vote in favour of fracking in a parliamentary debate.

Tessa Munt said this week: “I’m appalled, as are many local people, that in spite of his well-publicised promises – which were repeated during 25 public meetings in the run-up to last May’s elections – the new MP has broken those, done a u-turn and voted to abolish protections against fracking across Somerset.”

“I can’t believe this has happened. Before he was elected, Mr Heappey trumpeted his so-called ‘opposition’ to fracking far and wide. It’s not just disappointing, but downright hypocrisy – duping voters by saying one thing when he wants their support and then voting for what he describes as the “huge economic benefits” of fracking at the first opportunity.”

“When he arrived in Somerset in 2013, his Conservative colleagues would have briefed him about the sensitivity of our environment – the Somerset Moors and Levels and our precious Mendip landscapes, and our dependence on tourism, farming and water – but he has chosen to ignore the perils of this new type of fracking and voted to support it. What hope of protection can locals have when the Conservatives control not just the Government, but also the Councils who decide what happens locally?”

Tessa added: “This is so important. Somerset will suffer as the Conservatives’ launch their full-scale attack on the environmental agenda, cutting support for renewables and going all out for energy from fossil fuels which should remain in the ground. This is not the future we need, but a return to darker times!”

MP defends his vote in favour of fracking

But Burnham’s MP James Heappey this week defended his vote, and told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “It is quite extraordinary that despite professing to have such expertise on this subject, Ms Munt so clearly has no real understanding of either the relevant legislation nor the geology of Somerset.”

“Before the election I made an unequivocal pledge to defend our part of Somerset from fracking. Nothing that the Government has done nor the votes taken in Parliament have diminished that commitment.”

“Quite simply, the vote taken is for legislation that amends the 1998 Petroleum Act which contains a very specific definition of the geology into which fracking can take place. There is none of that rock here in Somerset.”

He added: “The Liberal Democrat spokeswoman peddles fear of fracking when she must surely know that the British Geological Survey have shown there to be no shale reserves at all either in the Mendips or in the new license areas on the coast.”

“My challenge to her is to explain how exactly the vote taken has changed anything for Somerset. If she’d care to contact my office, I’d be delighted to supply her with copies of all relevant legislation and geological mapping of our area. For too long the fracking debate in Somerset has been fuelled by political expedience. It is time we started dealing with facts instead.”

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