ANTI-FRACKING campaigners lobbied Wiltshire Council this week with a petition of more than 87,000 signatures, urging them to write to the Government to show their discontent at four licences being granted in the area.

One firm with the licences now has the sole right to drill in the four areas, which include Warminster, Trowbridge, Westbury, Chitterne and Erlestoke, were granted licences, meaning companies will have the sole right to drill in the area – if it gets permission.

At the full council meeting on Tuesday it was decided, following a motion put

forward by councillor Jeff Osborn, that a taskforce would be set up to explore research into hydraulic fracturing and cold bed methane drilling.

Petition co-ordinator Iona Hassan said at the campaign rally: “I think it is a very important issue because it is in the early days here in Wiltshire in terms of the hydraulic fracturing and cold bed methane that we will be affected by. The petition has had 87,000 signatures, of which nearly 1,000 are people in Wiltshire.

“What is interesting is that In Gloucester and Wakefield, they have voted unanimously to write to the Government requesting that they withdraw the licences that were granted in the area. We are requesting that Wiltshire Council does the same.

“There are a significant number of people here at the protest and the petition is going to remain open for the foreseeable future.”

The controversial process, which involves drilling into the earth, would be the first within Wiltshire and could see the extraction of coal bed methane following a review by the Government and a Habitats Regulations Assessment.

The rally comes after MPs voted in favour of drilling under national parks and other protected areas, meaning sites such as Westbury White Horse could be drilled under.

The Petroleum Exploration and Development Licenses (PEDL) for Wiltshire have been offered to South Western Energy Limited. It is anticipated that its next move will be to submit planning applications to Wiltshire Council.

The newly-formed taskforce will look at the environmental impacts of fracking in the county – something that Mrs Hassan says is vital to putting a stop to it.

She added: “Two years ago I began trying to raise awareness and I set out to find out as much as I could.

“We are asking people to get clued up and write to the government because there has been a lot of independent research done into hydraulic fracturing and cold bed methane which goes on all over the world which has had a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of people and the communities. The impact could be catastrophic.

“We think it is important and it is a complex issue and they need to get ahead of the game.”