CALLS to ban fracking in Hampshire have not been supported by council leaders.
Fracking involves blasting underground shale deposits with water to release trapped pockets of natural gas.
Ancient rocks beneath Hampshire and Sussex have been identified as a prime site for the technology, which is already revolutionising the energy industry in the US.
But critics fear fracking could pose serious risks to the environment, including causing small earthquakes and contaminating groundwater.
They called on Hampshire County Council to ban the process on its land.
But at the first full council meeting of the county council, councillors were denied a chance to vote on a proposal to make the county a fracking-free zone.
Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Adam Carew said: ‘Concerns about fracking are impossible to ignore.
‘It has already been banned in France and there is an increasing lobby saying it should be banned in Britain as well – Lib Dems say the county council should lead by example by declaring a “no fracking” policy in Hampshire.’
But the new Tory council leader Roy Perry said a ban could prejudice future planning applications to drill from oil companies.
Northern Petroleum already has drilling sites near Rowlands Castle and Havant and has plans for more oil exploration sites in Hampshire and West Sussex.
Cllr Perry explained that if permission was refused, oil companies could appeal to the High Court to overturn the decision on the grounds their application had been pre-judged.
Campaigners fear there could eventually be a fracking boom in Hampshire and Sussex.
Officials at the council said they had not received any applications for fracking on their land.
But it has emerged that eight licences for gas exploration have been awarded in the south of the county, including land east of Hambledon.
However, 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.