ARUNDEL and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has stressed the importance of protecting the countryside if shale gas is extracted in West Sussex.
The MP spoke publicly on the issue for the first time in a debate on fracking, held in Westminster Hall.
Mr Herbert’s constituency sits on the Sussex Weald basin which the Royal Geological Society has rated as one of the areas with the greatest potential for gas extraction, along with the Bowland basin in Lancashire.
Exploratory drilling has been proposed at a site between Kirdford and Wisborough Green by Celtique Energie.
The same company also made proposals for an exploration well at Nine Acre Copse on the edge of Fernhurst, prompting the ‘Frack Free Fernhurst’ campaign.
Mr Herbert recently met with residents who would be affected by these schemes.
In February 2013 West Sussex County Council granted permission for Celtique Energie to build a conventional exploratory well at Broadford Bridge.
Both sites are located in the Arundel & South Downs constituency.
Mr Herbert said: “I am not here to say that shale gas development must be a bad thing and that we should not pursue the drive to exploit shale.
“I seek a careful debate in which we ensure a balance of interests and a recognition that the national interest does not consist only in economic advantage, however powerful that argument might be.”