PRIME Minister David Cameron has said he would be “happy” to have controversial energy extraction method fracking in his Witney constituency.
The PM has been repeatedly pressed to say whether he would accept the process – which involves firing high-powered water and chemicals into the ground to dislodge shale gas – in his backyard, having welcomed the process nationally.
Last night, when asked if he would be happy for fracking to take place in West Oxfordshire, he said: “If the locally led planning process had been followed and approved, then yes.”
His remarks came after Green MP Caroline Lucas, who contested the Oxford East constituency in the 1992 General Election, was arrested after taking part in demonstrations against fracking in West Sussex yesterday.
Mr Cameron’s remarks received a mixed reaction in his constituency.
Liberal Democrat West Oxfordshire District Council member Liz Leffman said: “I think it is very unlikely he is ever going to have to live up to that because, as far as I can gather, there are no shale gas reserves in West Oxfordshire.
“He is never going to have to live with the consequences of fracking so it is easy for him to say. It is a different matter if he happened to live in Sussex or Lancaster where fracking looks like it will take place.”
Tory district councillor Richard Langridge, cabinet member for local economy, said: “I entirely agree with Mr Cameron. Fracking should take place anywhere where it is viable and suitable.
“As long as people are listened to and as long as we make sure all the problems are overcome, then there is no reason why fracking cannot be a very important part of our energy generation.”
Ms Lucas joined hundreds of people protesting against fracking in Balcombe, outside energy firm Cuadrilla’s test drilling site.
In a statement, she said: “Along with everyone else who took action today, I am trying to stop a process which could cause enormous damage for decades to come.
“The evidence is clear that fracking undermines efforts to tackle the climate crisis and poses potential risks to the local environment.”
In July it emerged that a 347 square-mile expanse of Oxfordshire, between Banbury, Bicester and Kidlington, had been identified as a possible source of shale gas by the British Geological Survey. A decision on extraction will be made next year.
So far 176 licences for exploration have been issued across the UK.