LETTER: Essential info not provided

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Nick Herbert MP, responding to the concerns of his constituents about the impact of fracking on the Sussex countryside, rightly surmises that people ‘want to know that the countryside they value will be protected’ (WSCT July 25).

Unfortunately, communities in Horsham District have learnt to their cost that the countryside that they value is most certainly not protected because the Government has relaxed planning rules so that developers can seemingly build what they like where they like irrespective of the concerns and objections of communities and their elected representatives.

So too it would appear that energy companies can drill where they please – and that it is the Government’s explicit intent that they should continue to do so, because in its view the prospect of economic gain overrides all other considerations.

Understandably the villagers of Balcombe think otherwise and are determined to defend their community and environment thereby setting an example for other beleaguered communities to follow.

Water UK, which according to The Daily Telegraph (July 19) represents all major water suppliers, is concerned that aquifers could be contaminated by leaks from shale-gas extraction wells or by poor handling of chemicals or waste water at the surface and has called for ‘greater clarity from the shale gas industry on what its water needs are going to be and a true assessment of the impacts’.

This is essential because policies and regulations no matter how strongly worded cannot eliminate entirely the possibility of human error and catastrophic equipment failures.

Accordingly, the public needs to know the ‘what ifs’ of shale-gas extraction and their consequences – and that essential information has not been provided. Could it be that this information is being deliberately withheld – surely not?

Dr R.F. SMITH

For Campaign to Protect RuralEngland, Sussex-Horsham District, Bashurst Copse, Itchingfield