EMMA JUDD: The legitimate concerns of residents must be heard

Anti-fracking protesters
Anti-fracking protesters
The drivers' dispute might be over, but at what cost?

CLIVE SMITH: The dressing-up corner is now no longer safe from the PC brigade

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I think it was about two-and-a-half years ago, on a bright Saturday morning in January, that I was invited to cover a public meeting in Westbourne about fracking.

Residents were concerned that the process of drilling horizontally under the ground to reach natural gas reserves trapped in the shale would cause ground tremors, methane leaks and a water supply that would be irreversibly contaminated.

The government must listen to the residents whose homes will be affected by the drilling and spend time making sure they’re properly heard

The company hosting the public meeting, Cuadrilla, was attempting to allay those fears with solid scientific research.

The trouble was, the last time fracking was attempted in the UK, in 2011, it caused those pesky tremors.

So fracking was swiftly, if temporarily, banned.

All that changed in May this year when permission to frack was allowed in North Yorkshire. But the real rumpus was created last week when Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, over-ruled local government and local residents to allow Cuadrilla to drill in Lancashire – the county which, in 2011, suffered fracking-induced mini-tremors.

It potentially paves the way for fracking to be allowed elsewhere in the country, including here in Hampshire, should Cuadrilla turn its attention southwards.

As a swathe of licences have already been approved for the south, notably in West Sussex and east Hampshire, it’s probably only a matter of when, rather than if, fracking will happen here.

In June, residents met at Horndean’s Merchistoun Hall to ask Hampshire County Council about whether fracking was imminent in the local area.

‘No’ was the response, but perhaps last week’s permission will change all that.

It doesn’t really do to scaremonger, but if people are already meeting in halls the fear must be there.

Their concerns are legitimate, given the evidence from Lancashire in 2011, and in the US, where fracking has been going on since the 1940s but in vastly less densely-populated places.

The thing to hope is that the drilling companies such as Cuadrilla, and the government, listen to the residents whose homes will be affected by the drilling and spend time making sure they’re properly heard.

AT THE NEXT BAFTAS, UKIP SHOULD BE UP FOR BEST FARCE

The next time the BAFTAs are on, Ukip should probably win the gong for Best Drama.

Actually, perhaps that’s a bit strong – maybe Best Soap Opera would be better. Or how about Best Farce?

Of course there was nothing farcical about MEP Steven Woolfe ending up in hospital.

But there is something innately farcical about Nigel Farage resigning from the party leadership but reassuming the mantle of power on a technicality because the previous incumbent quit just weeks after she was appointed.

Last week BBC’s Question Time had Neil Hamilton on (a disgraced former Tory MP now wearing the purple and yellow of Ukip).

Even he couldn’t say whether the party had a future...

WE’RE SO LUCKY WE DON’T HAVE SERIOUS WEATHER TO TALK ABOUT

My heart has gone out to the people of Haiti, caught in the vortex of Hurricane Matthew, a storm that has already claimed so many lives.

Last week my work colleagues and I were complaining of being a little bit cold.

How lucky we are that this is all we have to say about our weather at the moment.

I think us Brits are still famous for talking about the weather, even though in my experience we don’t do it any more than they do in other countries.

But what really have we got to talk about?

We don’t have a place called Hurricane Alley, and neither do we have any fault lines likely to disturb the surface tension on our cups of tea.

For that, we should count ourselves very fortunate.