Fernhurst villagers outline their fears over shale gas drilling plans

The lorry travels down rural Vann Road ENGSUS00120130822181436
The lorry travels down rural Vann Road ENGSUS00120130822181436

CONCERNS over plans for exploratory drilling for shale gas in Fernhurst have been outlined by villagers to a government representative from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Villagers said they were worried about traffic, noise, environmental worries, competence of the SDNPA planning committee, disposal of contaminated goods, extension of the site if drilling is positive, problems of insuring residential property if fracking started and loss of value for those near the site.

They were also concerned about transparency of the information available in the planning process and consultations with other departments, monitoring of the drilling and clearing up afterwards.

Alex Doyle was invited to the parish by Fernhurst’s district councillor, Norma Graves. “I asked her to come and speak to parish councillors and representatives of local societies, on drilling for shale gas and oil and 
possible fracking,” she said.

“Sylvia McCallum, chairman of Lynchmere Parish Council, and I first gave her a detailed tour of the routes planned to be used by the traffic involved with the potential drilling site off Vann Road.

“Although the site is nearest to Fernhurst village, it is geographically in Lynchmere. The routes involve both parishes and Haslemere town and into Liphook.

“We emphasised the narrowness of Vann Road and of Haslemere High Street for the proposed quantity and size of lorry that will be used.”

At the meeting, Ms Doyle repeatedly said she was unable to talk about specific planning applications, but villagers said they were pleased she had seen the site and surrounding countryside and roads, and would be able to take that information back with her.

She gave a presentation explaining the objectives of the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO) and how important they were to the country. She also referred to the government view on estimates of CO2 footprint, benefits to the Treasury, increase in job opportunities, benefits to the locality and the fact the processes would be robustly regulated and, if necessary, all would be halted if monitoring brought up anything that seemed to be wrong. She emphasised that regulation would be on-going.

Although villagers said the meeting had been useful, they felt there was a weakness in regulatory regimes with final scrutiny of the reports from the Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive being made only after applications had been decided by the planning authority.