We will protect Bath's hot springs from fracking, vows council
CONTROVERSIAL gas drilling operations which threatened Bath’s world famous hot springs would be strongly opposed council chiefs have vowed.
Concerns persist that an underground extraction technique known as fracking could harm the city’s top tourism attraction on which thousands of jobs depend.
Fears have been fuelled this week after a government-appointed panel said the method which triggered two earth tremors near Blackpool last year should continue, although with strict controls.
The move has been condemned as “sheer folly” by a South West Euro MP.
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Two firms have government licences to test drill for gas on the Mendip Hills, although they still need planning permission.
There are concerns the use of fracking, which involves pumping water and chemicals into shale rock, creating tiny explosions to release gas up to 10,000ft underground, could damage the water courses that supply the springs in the World Heritage city.
Cllr Paul Crossley, Lib Dem leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “We remain very concerned about the possible effects of fracking on Bath’s Hot Springs.
“Should the water courses leading to the natural hot springs be contaminated with pollutants from the fracking process, or the waters adopt a different direction of travel through new fractures in the underlying rocks then this could have a damaging impact on Bath’s natural hot springs.
“These are a crucial part of our tourist attraction that sustains thousands of jobs in the city and we must continue to stand-up against any drilling proposals that could affect the springs in the strongest possible terms.”
South West Lib Dem MP Sir Graham Watson has hit out at the Government panel’s decision to recommend the continuation of fracking.
Highlighting concerns over the potential damage it could do to Bath’s famous hot springs, Sir Graham said: “To even contemplate the extraction of a gas that requires vast amounts of water and chemicals which have the potential to contaminate an already scarce water supply is sheer folly.
‘‘In this day and age, where there are a variety of clean, affordable and renewable methods of securing future energy supplies, we should not be pursuing an energy source that can cause earthquakes.
“Low carbon sources are out there just waiting to be utilised yet we are wasting our time on fossil fuels.”
A spokesman for Somerset County Council said no applications had yet been submitted to it as mineral planning authority.
She added: “We are keeping an eye on this issue.”
Fracking near Blackpool was stopped last year when two earthquakes were felt at the surface.
The expert panel believes there will probably be more quakes but that they will be too small to do structural damage above ground.
Their report now goes out for a six-week consultation period, with the Department of Energy and Climate Change issuing regulations after that.