What the frack? Worries over Islington energy excavations

Highbury Fields

Highbury Fields - Credit: Archant

Fears have been raised that two of Islington’s cherished open spaces could be at risk from a controversial method of extracting underground energy reserves that potentially causes earthquakes.

Terry Stacy

Terry Stacy - Credit: Archant

Residents are concerned that Highbury Fields, the largest park in the borough, and the area around Market Road, in Holloway, could become home to fracking – a way of getting shale gas out of the ground.

Councillors have been bombarded with letters over the first moves to start drilling for shale gas in the south of England, with the Mayor of London Boris Johnson saying the capital should leave “no stone unturned, or unfracked, in the cause of keeping the lights on”.

Islington is in an area that may be considered for a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) early next year, but Islington Council says it has received no planning applications for the practice.

One Greenpeace supporter wrote to Cllr Terry Stacy, leader of Islington Council’s Lib-Dem group, saying: “The thought of a fracking well on Market Road or Highbury Fields brings home nicely the immense disruption this practice would visit on more rural communities – endless lorry movements with dangerous chemicals, threats to the water supply, access roads destroying farmland and habitat... and thus ensure a difficult future for our grandchildren.”

Cllr Stacy said: “Islington Liberal Democrat councillors have been inundated with emails from people concerned about the prospect of shale gas extraction in Islington. These fears have been heightened by the Mayor of London, who has declared his support for fracking in the capital, in areas such as Highbury Fields or North Road.

“[We] have serious concerns about ­energy companies wanting to ­either conduct tests or actually start fracking operations in ­Islington.

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“There are still major worries about possible water pollution, seismic disturbance and the disposal of waste water.

“We are now pressing the council and the Department for Energy and Climate Change to confirm that there are no plans for fracking operations in Islington.”

Caroline Russell, from the Islington Green Party, said: “It would be completely ludicrous. We are talking about some of the few bits of green space in a densely populated borough, but the idea of having lorries moving around in such a small area is not a good one.

“And that’s before you even talk about the idea of fracking itself. It’s absolutely bonkers.”

Richard Shelley, professor of petroleum geology at Imperial College London, said: “The area of London is not considered a target for shale gas exploration.”