FRACKING could be “disastrous” across much of Hampshire because of the county’s fragile water supply, a Hampshire MP has warned.

Conservative George Hollingbery spoke out after the Daily Echo revealed that eight drilling licences for possible fracking had already been issued to gas companies.

The Meon Valley MP said he believed it would prove “impossible”

to pursue the controversial new technology in any area that relied on groundwater and extraction from rivers.

And that included the Hampshire Downs, where water is stored in the chalk aquifers and pulled from the Test and Itchen, or from wells and boreholes.

Mr Hollingbery said: “Any threat to the water supply here would be utterly disastrous – every single person and business relies on that water.

“I don’t pretend to be an expert, but we do know of examples in the United States where there has been an impact on the water supply from fracking.

“A vast amount of the water we use in this part of the world comes from those chalk acquifers, so I suspect that means it can’t be done – that it’s impossible.”

The MP’s comments are significant, because the potential for widespread fracking has been embraced by many Conservatives – from David Cameron down.

The Government is preparing to announce new tax breaks for shale gas, as well as financial incentives to tempt communities to accept the technology.

But the process is hugely controversial because it involves blasting underground rock deposits with water to release trapped pockets of gas.

The alarm has been raised over groundwater contamination and toxic air around sites. In the Blackpool area, fracking was blamed for causing small earthquakes.

Mr Hollingbery takes a deep interest in water quality, not least as the chairman of the all-party parliamentary angling group at Westminster.

He added: “I’m not suggesting there is any threat to the chalk acquifers of Hampshire, but – if there was – I would certainly be manning the barricades.”

The eight licences, based on information from the department for energy and climate change (DECC), are located: n In north Southampton, stretching east from North Baddesley all the way to the A3051, at Fairthorne.

  • North of Winchester, from Kings Worthy stretching west almost to Stockbridge.
  • Further north, reaching from Chilbolton west to Amport.
  • East of Winchester, underneath Hampage Wood.
  • Stretching west from Hinton, in the New Forest.
  • From east of Fareham, stretching further east.
  • Two licences stretching east from the Hambledon area.

It is unlikely that all the sites would be fracked – even if drilling went ahead – because many have the potential to generate conventional gas instead.

The Daily Echo asked DECC for a response to fears about the effects of fracking on the water supply, but none was supplied.