FRACKING in Wiltshire will not be happening anytime soon after South Western Energy announced it is pulling out of onshore gas exploration in parts of South West England.

The shock announcement from the company, which had originally planned to carry out fracking in the county and other areas, comes to the delight of anti-fracking group Keep Wiltshire Frack Free (KWIFF), who have been actively protesting it for over three years.

The company also relinquished its desire to frack in the Forest of Dean, but still intends to carry out the controversial process in parts of Dorset and Somerset.

Member of KWIFF, Bill Jarvis, said: “We did not expect this at all.

“After the licences were sent out last month we were expecting SW Energy to be carrying out surveys very soon, so we are delighted that's not the case.

“We had lots of big events planned once we heard that the licences had been sent out but we will now reconsider them.

“However, we are aware that this is not the end. Other companies may well want to take up licences in Wiltshire so we need to remain cautious and vigilant.

“We will also be helping out our friends in Dorset and Somerset, where the company still has plans to frack.

“This isn’t just a case of not wanting fracking to happen on our doorstep – we don’t want it to happen full stop.”

Licences were sent out to companies, including SW Energy, in August this year, to the horror or anti-fracking campaigners.

Gerwyn Williams, director of SW Energy, said the reason his company pulled out was due to “low energy prices,” and nothing to do with public opposition.

He said: "The main reason is to minimise our financial exposure during a period of low energy prices and uncertain future energy prices.

"Gas prices are low now; we know that Shale gas will work safely and UK production in the near future will further reduce energy prices so now is not the time to be spending large amounts of money on exploration.

"We have been in this business for over twenty years onshore UK, we are not going away.

"If energy prices improve we may re-apply, out of round if necessary, for some of the areas in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.

"Our short term focus is gas production in Wales whereby we can help protect existing jobs in heavy industry and hopefully create many new jobs."

If SW Energy had decided to take up the licences, fracking could have taken place at sites in Trowbridge, Westbury, Warminster and Bradford on Avon.

KWIFF now plan to hold a meeting which, Mr Jarvis added, will be more like a “big celebration”.