AREAS in south Herefordshire are now licensed for fracking following a government vote.

The Wye Valley and Forest of Dean were part of the 159 Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences awarded for fracking across England voted through in the House of Commons on December 16.

But before a licensee can start operations it must apply for planning and other permissions.

The Forest of Dean and Symonds Yat are within the proposed areas.

The government has released details about how companies can bid for licences to explore for onshore oil and gas, which it says has the potential to provide the UK with greater energy security, growth and jobs, but the system is controversial due to environmental concerns.

The Green Party believes fracking for shale gas or to extract coal bed methane is incompatible with efforts (and UK commitments) to minimise climate change. Hereford Green Party will vigorously oppose any applications the licensee makes for the required permissions.

Rob Palgrave, chair of the party said: "How shameful for Britain – days after signing the global agreement on climate change in Paris, our government announces the go ahead for more exploration and extraction of fossil fuels.

"I hope our local politicians will be as resolute as their counterparts in Lancashire in resisting the development of fracking here.”

MP for North Herefordshire, Bill Wiggin, and MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire Jesse Norman voted in favour of fracking last Thursday.

Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside.

The government’s decision allows fracking in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, providing the surface-level works are sited outside AONBs.

Herefordshire's It’s Our County party is opposed to any over-industrialisation of the countryside and made a formal response to the government consultation on fracking earlier this year.

Cllr Anthony Powers, leader of It’s Our County on Herefordshire Council, said: "We must look to safe renewable energy: shale gas is not the solution to our needs.

"We - and many other organisations - are concerned about the proven environmental impacts of methane and other waste from shale gas extraction, the scale of the facilities required and the increased heavy vehicle traffic on unsuitable local roads. "The devolved governments of Scotland and Wales are right to have banned shale gas exploration: it's wrong for England too.”