AS the threat of fracking in the countryside grows, national attention is centring on Fernhurst where plans to drill an exploratory well will be debated by the South Downs National Park Authority.
More than 130 letters of objection from villagers have poured into park authority planners and the Frack Free Fernhurst campaigners have been gathering support.
Concerns have been expressed over air, light and ground water pollution, noise and huge lorries using narrow country lanes.
Patrick Cam from Fernhurst told planners: “I am frankly appalled that Celtique Energy are proposing to carry out borehole drilling for oil and gas.
“If found, they will proceed to carry out hydraulic fracturing on the grounds within the national park in an area of outstanding beauty, valued as an important wetland corridor.
“My biggest concern is how toxic the process of fracking will be and I am certain there will be severe environmental consequences and human health issues relating to the work being carried out.”
Corrine Tutton, also from Fernhurst, echoed the views of many saying: “We are part of the South Downs National Park. How can you agree to allow this to happen?” She added: “ I doubt very much I would be able to build a house anywhere down there so how can we suddenly allow drilling?”
Another villager, Norman Hodgson, said: “This is, I surmise, the biggest decision yet to be faced by the SDNPA and especially its planning committee. It is one they fail at their peril and at the peril longer term, of all life in the SDNP – fauna and flora, visitors and residents, both animal and human.”
Petworth MP Nick Herbert said fracking was the biggest threat to the countryside after the spread of unwanted housing developments which a planning rule relaxation had made harder to oppose. Ministers had a duty to explain what the effects would be.
Shaun Spiers, the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s top officer said: “Part of the problem is a lack of clear information leads to a fear of the unknown. Suspicions are reinforced by the insensitive approach of some shale gas enthusiasts, fuelling concerns fracking is a done deal.”