Fracking plan for Harpenden Common announced

Harpenden Common

Harpenden Common - Credit: Archant

Permission has been granted today (Wednesday) for preliminary research into the possibility of fracking on Harpenden Common.

The decision was made by Herts County Council after geologists discovered a hitherto unknown seam of shale rocks beneath the picturesque community beauty spot.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks and release natural gas inside.

The government had been supporting moves to extract gas and oil from shale rock in the countryside, but to date little exploratory drilling has occurred to determine what sort of deposits are available, so the Harpenden scheme will provide a benchmark for future developments elsewhere in the UK.

Drilling is scheduled to begin on the southernmost stretch of Harpenden Common later this year, subject to contracts, with further work planned for other sites in the town over the coming months.

The project is being supported by business thinktank First Applied Practices Relating to Industry and Landscapes, which works to ensure the best use is made of hitherto undeveloped countryside.

Spokesperson Jess Teravril said: “We appreciate that there may be many people who are concerned about drilling on Harpenden Common, but rest assurred the financial benefits to the town will far outweigh any damage to this wasted piece of land, and truly put Harpenden on the map as somewhere that embraces change for the sake of profit.

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“If it goes ahead, the scheme will provide jobs for hundreds of people from surrounding towns, including Luton and Dunstable, and we will be looking into expanding existing transport routes to cope with the increased volume of traffic.”

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) has warned about the environmental harm fracking can cause, including damage to the beauty and tranquillity of the countryside, and the need for numerous vehicle movements to transport the large volumes of water required for fracking. Whether any compensation will be made available to residents directly affected by the Harpenden scheme has yet to be determined, but Compulsory Purchase Orders may be necessary for properties adjacent to the drilling works.

The Harpenden Society was not available for comment.

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