Last week Labour forced the Government into a u-turn on its proposed fracking free-for-all.
After great pressure from Labour and campaign groups the Government finally accepted our amendments in the House of Commons which mean fracking will be banned in all National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and groundwater Source Protection Zones.
These measures should, in theory, act as a blanket ban on fracking happening here in West Berks but the Guardian reports that a spokesperson from the Department of Energy & Climate Change said it was "too early to say what areas might be affected by the extension of protections" as the measures may be overturned in the House of Lords. In particular, they were unable to say whether all levels of groundwater Source Protection Zones (SPZs) would be covered.
If it turns out that the Tory-Lib Dem intention is to only ban fracking in what the Environment Agency describes as Level 1 or 2 SPZs then large swathes of the area would continue to be potential sites for shale gas and oil extraction. If the much-wider SPZ Level 3 (see map) is protected as Labour intend then all of Newbury and Thatcham are to protected from fracking.
The rest of West Berks outside Newbury and Thatcham will be protected by our amendment because it prevents fracking in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the North Wessex Downs extends across the West of the area.
I'm pleased that a Labour government is committed to a frack-free West Berkshire and I hope that Tory and Lib Dem members of the House of Lords will not remove these proposed protections. I also hope that the Coalition Government will include all levels of SPZ in the final legislation so all of West Berks is covered.
Fracking can be dangerous to water supplies and cause tremors; it would blight the countryside with huge drills and large trucks driving to and from the sites but worst of all it would distract from our mission to move towards renewable forms of clean energy.
West Berks residents don't want fracking and if im elected in May I'll ensure they get their wish.