The Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council has called on the Coalition Government to protect Bath’s natural Hot Springs from potential hydro fracturing in outlying areas.
Hydro fracturing – commonly known as ‘fracking’ – is the investigation underground of sources of gas by drilling a bore hole and obtaining data from either explosives or pumping water down the cavity. The Department of Energy & Climate Change had issued four Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs) for fracking for areas around Bath. Three of these have been relinquished but the fourth has been extended for a further year. Councillor Paul Crossley has written to Energy Minister, Michael Fallon MP, to express the Council’s deep concerns about the process and the possible damage to the supply of water to Bath Hot Springs and the impact on Bath’s major tourist attraction. He urged the Government to review its decision to grant a one-year extension to potentially explore and extract unconventional gas.
Cllr Paul Crossley (Lib-Dem, Southdown), Leader of Council, said: “The springs are the life blood of this city, which is cherished worldwide. In economic terms, the city and region rely heavily on a tourist industry which is worth an estimated £380m annually to Bath alone and which employs 10,000 people Independent research carried out by the British Geological Survey has concluded that extraction of unconventional gas within the zone of influence of the Hot Springs of Bath has the potential to damage the delicate fracture-led delivery system of the hot water. In his letter, Cllr Crossley said: “The United Kingdom’s only natural Hot Springs emerge in the heart of the World Heritage City of Bath. The UK Government committed to protect and conserve these sites for this and future generations.” He added: “We strongly welcome the actions to relinquish three of the four licences and call upon the 4th licence holder to also relinquish their licence to frack in the areas that might affect the Hot springs. “I am also very concerned to learn that the relinquished licences will be made available again in the 14th round licence offer, as and when this is made. This once again invites companies to potentially explore and extract unconventional gas within the zone of influence of the Hot Springs. Our strong request is that these licence areas and others within the zone of influence are withheld from future licensing rounds.”
Cllr Crossley’s letter concluded: “I would stress that Bath & North East Somerset Council is not politically opposed to the concept of shale gas extraction. Our concern is wholly focussed on the potential damage to the Hot Springs and is backed by research findings. “As such, we are not asking that Bath is made an exception in policy terms, but rather that a policy of pursuing shale gas extraction in appropriate areas recognises that for technical reasons it is wholly inappropriate to issue licences within the Bath Hot Springs catchment area.” Cllr Crossley has sent copies of his letter to the Department of Energy & Climate Change, the Leaders and Chief Executives of Mendip District Council and Somerset County Council and local MPs. Director’s notes: · Bath & North East Somerset Council is concerned that the process of fracking will result in the water courses leading to the natural Hot Springs being contaminated with pollutants from this process, or for the waters to adopt a different direction of travel through new fractures in the underlying rocks. · The Council has apparently obtained the very best expert advice on this matter and there is little to suggest that any thought has been given to the potential for damage to the deep water sources that supply the Hot Springs in Bath. · B&NES believes exposing the Bath Hot Springs to risk through the avoidable action of the issue of PEDL licences would appear to be in direct contradiction of the UK’s commitment to the 1972 World Heritage Convention.