THE new council is looking to make a bold move in declaring the area a frack-free zone.

Somerset West and Taunton Council is set to discuss the issue at its meeting on Tuesday evening (July 16).

Fracking will be a hot topic of discussion as new councillor Caroline Ellis proposes a report which would see the council declare the area 'frack-free'.

The Lib Dem run council, whose leader Federica Smith-Roberts says she aims to champion environment issues, will decide on their actions, despite parts of West Somerset being allocated by central government as potential sites.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a process where water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground at high pressure to fracture the surrounding rock formation in order to release the oil or gas stored within it.

Areas around Minehead and Watchet, and a section of Exmoor National Park, have been licensed by central

government for onshore unconventional shale oil and shale gas development, which could include hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for short.

Councillor Ellis said: "Fracking is a form of fossil fuel extraction and as such it is incompatible with fighting climate change.

"Fracking risks putting the UK further out of reach of climate targets that we are already set to miss.

Fracking would involve industrialisation of the countryside.

"The potentially massive scale of proposed fracking and ensuing cumulative damage could have dramatic effects on the landscape and tranquility of communities in fracking locations."

Cllr Ellis hopes a strong message of local opposition would act as a deterrent to potential investors.

But even if the council does pass the motion, it's not a done deal for the area, as it is Somerset County Council which is the minerals and waste planning authority.

She added: "On February 21 SWT shadow council unanimously passed a motion declaring a climate emergency and resolving to work towards making Somerset West and Taunton carbon neutral by 2030.

"Fracking is incompatible with this key council commitment.

SWT as a district council covers areas for which licences have been issued.

"While it may not be the planning authority for fracking residents have a right to know exactly where their council stands on this.

"SWT needs to reflect the strong and growing public concern about and opposition to fracking in our district and make it clear there is no ‘social licence’ for fracking in our district."

The issue will be discussed at SWT's special full council at 6.15pm on Tuesday evening at Deane House.