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 last week.
Mr Herbert said that while the argument was advanced that extracting shale gas would serve the national interest by lowering fuel bills and contributing to security of energy supplies, there were other national interests, one of which is the country’s landscape.
Fracking is a process that sees water and chemicals pumped at high pressure underground to split apart porous shale rock to release trapped oil or gas.
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.
Mr Herbert recently met with residents who would be affected by these schemes.
In February 2013 West Sussex County Council granted permission to Celtique Energie to build a conventional exploratory well at Broadford Bridge near Billingshurst. 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.
It also consists in ensuring that we can protect national assets, including the countryside and our landscape.
“We must ensure that we balance that interest in our national consideration as we design the guidelines and so on, and that locally elected councillors can do so and take specific local concerns into account.
“We should not drive towards this potential new energy source regardless; we should attempt to engage with people and ensure democratic support for what is proposed.”
Mr Herbert has pledged to follow the issue of shale gas extraction closely and ensure that the concerns of his constituents are addressed.