Kent Greens oppose Woodnesborough shale drilling plan

A core of shale rock
Image caption Gas is a natural by-product of shale rock, which the company wants to test

Green campaigners are objecting to plans to explore for gas on farmland in Kent, which they fear will lead to controversial shale gas extraction.

Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd, based in Mid Glamorgan, wants permission to drill an exploratory borehole at Woodnesborough to test coal and shale for gas.

The company said it mainly wanted to extract methane from coal, but did not rule out shale extraction in future.

The Kent Green Party said it was sceptical about Coastal's claims.

The company has submitted a planning application for a 12-week permit to test coal, lower limestone shale and the associated rock strata on land next to the junction of the A256 and A257.

The application includes provision of a drill rig and site buildings.

"We are trying to take samples to look at the quantity of gas held in the coal and whether we can extract it at a later date," said director Gerrin Williams.

Fracking concerns

Green Party spokesman Steve Dawe said it believed that if gas was found in shale at the site, the company would later seek to remove it using the controversial fracking method.

Fracking was being used in Lancashire but was suspended last week as a precaution after two earthquakes in the county.

The process involves shattering hard shale rocks underground to release gas using either hydraulic pressure or tiny explosions.

"If they find the possibility of exploiting shale gas they will," Mr Dawe said.

"We wish to rule out such exploitation because it is a deeply polluting activity."

Mr Williams said he understood concerns about fracking but it would be two or more years before drilling shale could be considered.

"It would have to be proven absolutely safe first before we would even think about it," he said.

Kent County Council said it was taking comments about the application, which would not be considered before 26 July.

"Any future proposals to exploit any gas would require a fresh planning application," it said in a statement.

"This would require significant additional work, including the need for a formal environmental impact assessment, extensive consultation, and would be subject to the full rigours of the planning process."

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