CONTROVERSIAL gas extraction technique 'fracking' could be on its way to Croydon after a licence was granted to hunt for potential sites in the borough.
Little-known company Northdown Energy Limited has been given permission to explore Croydon for natural gas and oil. These licences, under current regulations, allow the licence-holder to investigate opportunities for shale gas extraction, or fracking, across a 400 sq km area, including Croydon.
Fracking involves drilling down into the earth and directing a high-pressure water mixture at shale rock to release the gas inside. The process sparked controversy for its environmental impact as well as the potential to cause minor earthquakes. Dominic Shepherd, who lives in Kenley and runs the annual Kenley Fun Day on the Common said he did not think the area was suitable for exploration. He said: "Croydon to me is over populated and there are too many people to too few open spaces. "If it was in the middle of the countryside miles from anywhere it would probably be ok. "But Croydon is very suburban – they are saying it is safe but if there was ever an issue, a lot of people living here near these open areas would suffer. "We also don't have the open space to spare, however these companies pass it off. "We can't know what is happening underground, so what if something happens? "I appreciate we have to make use of scarce resources, but at what cost? "People live here for the countryside but it will turn into an industrial site with fracking."
In 2011, a shale gas drilling rig near Blackpool was blamed as the seaside resort was hit by small earth tremors, while similar incidents have occurred in areas of the United States and Canada. Several states in the US have banned fracking.
Although undertaking the controversial drilling programme would involve Northdown Energy Limited having to seek a further licence, the current situation allows exploratory work to uncover reserves of shale gas that could be used in the future, subject to planning permission. Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth has warned that setting up fracking sites in urban areas "could wreck communities' quality of life".
Concerns have also been raised by Water UK, who represent all major UK water suppliers, that the process could lead to drinking water aquifers being contaminated and result in water shortages because of the huge amounts of water used in the process. Protests against fracking have been on the rise since Chancellor George Osborne announced a 50 per cent tax break for fracking firms in an attempt to attract investment to the fledgling energy industry in the UK. In Balcombe, West Sussex, 23 fracking protesters have been arrested.