The prospect of fracking in Melton and the Vale of Belvoir has moved another step closer after a licence was offered to a company to carry out the practice in this area.
The Melton permit, which covers an area of around 100 square kilometres, was one of 27 in the UK where licences were offered this week to private companies by the Government’s Oil and Gas Authority.
The licence offered to London-based Hutton Energy is for an area to the north of Melton (SK72a) taking in the villages of Thorpe Arnold, Welby, Saxelbye, Wartnaby, Holwell, Scalford, Goadby Marwood, Long Clawson, Hose, Eastwell, Eaton and Waltham.
It’s anticipated Hutton Energy will be formally granted the licence later this year.
The firm must gain approval from national bodies, including the Environment Agency and Minerals Planning Authority, and would still need to apply for and gain planning permission from the local authority before starting to frack – a controversial technique which involves drilling deep into the ground and blasting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into shale rocks to release gas trapped inside.
Fracking is seen as a way of helping secure the nation’s future energy requirements but opponents warn it could significantly damage the environment.
Alastair McQuillan, from the Rutland and Melton Green Party, said: “The Rutland and Melton Green Party are totally opposed to this and we will take a lead role in any action to keep Melton and the Vale of Belvoir frack-free.
“We believe it damages the environment and puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and if there is a leak in the well it could pollute watercourses.
“There is also evidence that it causes earthquakes, as was the case in Blackpool a few years ago.
“This is yet another move in the wrong direction for UK energy policy. Popular technologies like wind and solar are having their support axed, while the more unpopular than ever fracking industry is being forced on the British public against its will.”
A spokesman for the Oil and Gas Authority said the licence covering the Melton area (SK72a) had been offered after thorough environmental assessments were carried out by Government inspectors.
He said: “This is one of 27 licences for areas which have been found not to abut areas of environmental significance.
“A thorough assessment was carried out on the companies who were interested in taking up these licences.
“It’s likely to be later in the year, around November, before any licenses are awarded.”
Hutton Energy has already been granted licences for fracking within other blocks of land covering more villages in the Vale, including Harby, Stathern, Colston Bassett, Plungar, Barkestone, Redmile, Langar, Barnstone and Granby (PEDL 204) and Knipton, Belvoir, Woolsthorpe-by-Belvoir, Muston and Bottesford (PEDL 208) and Cropwell Bishop and Cropwell Butler (PEDL 254).
Another company, Egdon Resources, has a licence for fracking within a block of land (PEDL 201) to the north west of Melton, comprising villages including Old Dalby, Upper Broughton, Hickling, Willoughby-on-the-Wolds and Wymeswold.
Hutton Energy’s communications manager Anna McMaster said there were a couple of ‘targets’ within the Melton SK72a land area which the firm was interested in looking at in respect of conventional resources which wouldn’t need fracking (oil and gas) and unconventional resources (shale oil).
She said: “At the moment it’s about doing geological work to help decide the areas where we want to focus our work and where the best places to drill would be.
“Once we decide an area we’ll be working on we set up a community advisory board and consult with them and the community.
“We’re experienced in this work and we believe the UK has regulations to make sure any fracking operations are done in the safest way possible. We also have to adhere to a number of authorities and we work with these agencies to make sure we’re in line with them.”