The city of Bath’s famous hot springs could be at risk from fracking, according to Paul Crossley, Leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council.
The Liberal Democrat Councillor for Southdown argues that both the Roman Baths and Thermae Spa’s hot springs are under threat if proposals to pursue underground fracking within the World Heritage city is approved, adding, “I have deep concerns about the fracking process and the possible damage to the supply of water to the springs.”
Cllr Crossley then went on to say that the hot springs are the “life blood of this city”, and that, “for technical reasons it is wholly inappropriate to issue licences within the Bath Hot Springs catchment area.”
If a fracking licence was to be approved for the city of Bath, and in the area around the hot springs in particular, there are fears that the delivery system of hot water to the springs may be damaged; the fracking would involve drilling deep boreholes in order to extract shale gas from dense rocks that lie deep underground. These worries arose from research by the British Geological Survey, which came to the conclusion that fracking could possibly ruin the underground water supply.
Cllr Crossley made his address at the Shale Gas Environmental Summit in London last month, where environmentalists, academics, campaigners and other industry representatives gathered to discuss the environmental effects of shale gas extraction and production.
Bath is home to the only natural hot springs in the UK, which contribute millions of pounds each year to the city’s tourism industry, which employs around 10,000 people and is annually worth approximately £380million. There are growing concerns that any damage to the hot springs as a result of fracking will negatively impact the local economy, as the Roman Baths alone make up for £92million of the city’s economy each year.
Earlier this year, Bath and North East Somerset Council rejected David Cameron’s proposal to boost business rates in return for agreeing to fracking in the area, with Cllr Crossley then saying, “we would not take any short-term business rate gain at the expense of the springs”.
Fracking remains the British government’s preferred source of home-produced fuel, with George Osborne describing it as “the future”. However, environmentalists argue that it simply reinforces a reliance on fossil fuels and acts as a distraction from investing in renewable energy sources.