Prime Minister Liz Truss’ pledge to lift the nationwide ban on fracking has sparked concern among civic leaders in the Cotswolds and Forest of Dean.

Hydraulic fracturing, which is known as fracking, involves drilling into the earth and directing a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals at a rock layer in order to release the gas inside.

The new PM has confirmed she would allow fracking to continue in the UK and said developers will be able to seek planning permission “where there is local support”. The potential for onshore hydrocarbons such as oil and gas has been explored in the past in Gloucestershire.

Since the Second World War, the county has been subject to many oil and gas exploration licences, involving extensive seismic and other investigations.

These culminated in the drilling of six deep boreholes in the Cotswolds and the Forest of Dean to investigate promising rock structures at depth that might contain hydrocarbons, between 1975 and 1990.

However, no information is available as to the commercial value of these investigations, and the oil and gas potential of the geological structures beneath Gloucestershire remains unquantified.

But councillors are concerned about the renewed talk of fracking being allowed in the UK.

County councillor Paul Hodgkinson, (LD, Bourton-on-the-Water and Northleach) said he is extremely concerned about the PM’s recent remarks.

“This came up about eight years ago when fracking became quite a big issue. The Cotswolds was identified as one of those places that had some reserves of shale gas,” he said.

“There were concerns locally that if fracking licences were given, the Cotswolds might be in the firing line for that. In the end, that never transpired and fracking was seen to be a high risk development.

“So I’m quite alarmed to see the new PM is talking about and promoting fracking now. It is a concern. The Cotswolds is an area of outstanding natural beauty and so there will be some protections but if the Government decides to railroad this through what will we be left with?

“Will it be a free for all for companies to just apply for licences? The risks of fracking have not gone away. We should be promoting renewable energy even more so.”

Conservative group leader at Cotswold District Council Tony Berry (Kemble) said the general view among local Tories on fracking is mixed given the current energy crisis but he says there would be no appetite for it in the Cotswolds.

He said: “We don’t even want wind turbines. A lot would depend on where the fracking was.

“If it was in some backwater nobody cared about they might not have a problem. But generally speaking if it was somewhere in our beautiful countryside there would be an issue.”

Forest of Dean District Council climate emergency cabinet member Chris McFarling (G, St Briavels) said he would put forward a motion to renew the local authority’s stance that fracking is not welcome in the Forest.

“It goes against our principle priorities of trying to address climate change and save biodiversity. Furthermore, the potential harm to our aquifers at a time when we are in need of fresh water to survive the drought, seems to be ill thought through.”

In November 2019, the UK Government announced that fracking would not be allowed to proceed in England.

Ministers took the decision at the time on the basis of a report by the Oil and Gas Authority, which found that it is “not currently possible to accurately predict the probability or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking operations”.