West Sussex councillors will be advised tomorrow to refuse to declare the county a frack free zone.
A petition with more than 3,500 signatures urging the county to make itself frack free will be debated by the full council at its meeting in Horsham.
The petition said fracking was untested in the UK and threatened the rural tranquil nature of the Sussex Weald. It said the area could not afford the volumes of water required by fracking and that its geology was unsuitable for the process. The petition also said fracking threatened wildlife and dark night skies and had implications for greenhouse gas emissions.
Brenda Pollack, of Friends of the Earth, said: “Residents are saying loudly and clearly that they don’t want fracking here and West Sussex councillors must listen to public opinion”.
But council officers will advise members that declaring the county a frack free zone could risk legal challenges and costs.
A briefing note prepared for the meeting said: “The County Council cannot pre-determine whether a planning application will be permitted or refused. The Committee could not be ‘bound’ by general policies as it must make decisions within the broader legal framework and its discretion cannot lawfully be fettered in advance.
“Having such a policy could suggest that the Committee members were predetermined on decisions involving fracking and undermine the validity of those decisions. This could lead to judicial reviews and appealed decisions, incurring costs against the County Council and effectively passing planning decisions to the Planning Inspectorate.”
Other councils have declared themselves frack free, most recently York City Council.
The council meeting starts at 10.30am and will be webcast.