COUNCILLORS have voted to try and protect the county's Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty from fracking.

At last Friday's full council meeting, a motion put forward by Councillor Paul Newman requesting the government consider withholding any licence which would allow fracking and any associated hydrocarbon extraction processes in or under Herefordshire’s vitally important Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was fully supported.

An amendment, proposed by Councillor Felicity Norman, to extend the request to the whole of Herefordshire was thrown out.

Councillor Newman, who is the chairman of the council’s audit and governance committee, said: "I personally am not anti-fracking but I was very surprised when a licence was issued for my Ward, where the 18th century 'Wye Tour' established Kerne Bridge Ward as the very cradle of UK landscape tourism.

"Fracking is a complex issue, but when I read this well considered and recent report from the House of Commons’ own Environmental Audit Committee it was clear to me that significant risks do exist. And in Kerne Bridge we are considering drilling in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Area of Conservation, with a protected fresh water aquifer under Ross.

“This licenced area, centred on my ward, is clearly a most precious landscape and environmental asset and, given the clear risks, it seems to me to be frankly madness for the government to place some of Herefordshire’s most precious assets directly in the front line.”

He said Herefordshire is ‘significantly’ more reliant than the average county on tourism and the AONB area is an outstanding asset to the ‘Brand Herefordshire’.

“Please join me today, in sending the strongest possible message to government, to take more care and be more cautious in protecting special circumstances, in our case our special and nationally important landscape assets and our precious income, jobs and livelihoods," he said.

"Something has to be wrong when a triple protected tourism icon is placed right in the front line."

In proposing an amendment to the motion – in that it should protect the whole county – Cllr Norman said the council should be supporting and encouraging renewables as an alternative, along with reducing the use of energy generally in order to reduce carbon output and global warming.