CONCERNS were raised by a council at the prospect of ‘fracking’ coming to Bucks – just days after it was accused of sounding a "deafening silence" on the subject.
A meeting of the Environment, Transport and Locality Services Select Committee discussed the county’s position on hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, on Tuesday.
Last month criticism was levelled at the council for not making its position clear enough.
Riaz Ahmed, Wycombe Labour’s Chairman, said: "If the Government issues licenses for Bucks, BCC will be the planning authority for applications for exploration. We need BCC to be on top of the job and make sure residents’ interests are protected against the interests of the oil companies, most of whom are foreign companies.
"We need to be clear what BCC’s policy is when it balances the risks of fracking with the benefits local authorities will get from increased business rates –and at a time when BCC is slashing £60 million from its budget."
The process is unpopular with environmental campaigners, but David Cameron is an advocate and has encouraged the country to see it as a way to boost the economy and ease fuel troubles.
At the BCC meeting, lead officer for waste and minerals planning Lester Hannington said a new Minerals and Waste Local Plan would be worked on this year and would feed into the way BCC dealt with any fracking applications that may be made. He confirmed BCC would determine any such applications.
Mr Hannington told the meeting it would be hard to adopt a negative policy toward fracking.
He said: "If we have a very restrictive policy we would have to justify that very strongly in terms of local evidence to say why – why should we be negative about any form of development?
"We would need to be very clear and have a very strong argument to say why we should be so restrictive concerning that form of development."
When asked about the possibility of environmental damage being done to the area, Mr Hannington said the Government was looking to the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive to ensure any fracking practices did no damage.
He said: "It’s difficult for me to say no there will not be any harm but the expectation by Government is there should not be any harm if the regulators do their job properly."
Another round of Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences will be available from the Government this year but there have been no approaches to BCC from developers as yet.