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  1. ITV Report

Fracking licenses granted for sites in Wiltshire and Somerset

Fracking site in Manchester Credit: PA Images

The Government has handed out new licences for onshore gas and oil exploration in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.

A large area of Somerset has been earmarked for controversial fracking, the process of breaking up rocks deep underground to release gas as an energy source, while Wiltshire could see the extraction of methane from coal beds.

The Welsh company awarded the licences would have to apply for planning permission before carrying out any drilling.

Campaigners say the decision could open swathes of the region to controversial fracking.

Oil and Gas Authority chief executive Andy Samuel said:

"This round enables a significant amount of the UK's shale prospects to be taken forward to be explored and tested."

– Andy Samuel, OGA
The areas in red have been earmarked for fracking although the company involved would have to apply for planning permission before carrying out any drilling. Credit: ITV News

Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said:

"Last month we set out the vital role gas will play in the UK's transition to a low-carbon future."

"The licences offered today move us a step closer - driving forwards this industry which will provide secure, home-grown energy to hard-working families and businesses for decades to come."

"We need to get shale gas moving."

– Energy Minister Andre Leadsom

The blocks on the above map relate to squares of land which the companies will have licence to explore for oil and gas, but they will still need landowner consent, Environment Agency assessments and planning permission before drilling can start.

The process could take several years before exploration, including fracking, takes place.

Map of potential fracking sites produced by the Oil and Gas Authority. Credit: Oil and Gas Authority

Friends of the Earth called on David Cameron to listen to the people of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset after the Government issued new oil and gas licences for parts of the counties.

Mike Birkin, South West campaigner for Friends of the Earth said:

“Increasing evidence on the health and environmental impacts of fracking is emerging. That’s why people across the West Country are concerned about what fracking means for them." "Mr Cameron needs to understand that local communities up and down the country are rejecting fracking and demanding clean energy. It’s particularly appalling the day after the Government completed its U-turn on promises to protect national parks and groundwater protection areas from the risks of fracking."

– Mike Birkin, Friends of the Earth campaigner