The beautiful Burnley and Pendle countryside could soon be left ravaged and industrialised according to campaigners after the controversial practice of fracking moved a step closer this week.
Energy companies are now being invited to bid for fracking licences on land across more than half the country, including a large portion of East Lancashire.
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is the process of drilling and pumping water into the ground at high pressure in order to release natural gas from shale rock.
The M65 corridor through Burnley to Colne and the surrounding area has been identified as being particularly rich in shale gas by the British Geological Survey and Mr David Penney, of Keep East Lancashire Frack Free, said it may only be a matter of time before rigging wells start appearing.
“The area is extremely rich in shale gas so I would be surprised if there wasn’t any interest in the half-a-dozen licensing blocks throughout the area. The two firms currently involved in exploratory drilling in the North West are Cuadrilla and Igas.
“They haven’t made any applications yet but haven’t ruled it out either. There are some big players from France and America who could potentially be interested in an area like this as well.
“Even if 10% of the gas was to be extracted from East Lancashire the number of wells needed would be astronomical. On average there are eight wells to a pad. With an area of this size there could be well over 80 pads.
“They keep saying how good it has been for the US but most of the fracking carried out there takes place in vast rural areas. We live on a densely populated island and if this carries on, East Lancashire is going to end up with an industrialised countryside.”
Mr Penney said each licence would cost £1,400 and ensure the holder has up to 31 years exclusive rights to any gas found underneath East Lancashire.
There is no real timescale involved but following the exploratory stage, which would see at least one well used, full scale production could start within five years.
Supporters believe development of this gas resource is needed to improve the energy sector, boost jobs and the economy while helping lower energy bills.
However, campaigners feel the risks far outweigh the benefits with concerns raised over water contamination, air pollution, the exorbitant amount of water used and potential earthquakes.
Mr Penney said: “There is a lot of mis-information being banded about at the moment.
“The Government says it will help drive down energy prices but this is not the case. It would have to go on the open market and would be subject to European market competition rules. Studies have also linked fracking with increased air pollution and there has been evidence of water contamination at sites in America.
“There is also this myth it will lead to the creation of lots of jobs. Cuadrilla themselves have said they bring in experts with them.
“Therefore the only jobs that would be created would be low-paid, temporary security jobs.
“We will continue to campaign because we believe these risks are very real and people should be made aware of them.”