Property developer Julie Wilde says the fracking of an oil field under her beach-side villa on England’s south coast has done nothing to hurt the value of the 9 million-pound ($14 million) home.
Oil exploration hasn’t affected the area “one little bit,” Wilde said as she drove an Audi A5 convertible through her house’s electric gates. “It’s a really, really nice place to live. It’s almost like being on holiday all the time.”
Wilde and other residents of Sandbanks, a wealthy enclave overlooking England’s largest natural harbor, hardly notice the presence of the U.K.’s biggest onshore oil field, lying about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) from their mansions.
Wytch Farm is a field developed by BP Plc more than 30 years ago. It’s one of several deposits around England that’s produced oil through the years using both horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, techniques that campaigners say will pollute the environment if used in shale fields. As the government pushes for a U.S.-style energy boom from shale to spur Britain’s sputtering economy, it can bolster its case pointing to Wytch Farm’s safety record.
“What’s been done at Wytch Farm is perhaps a big example” of how the industry can operate, said Simon Lockett, chief executive officer of Premier Oil Plc, a London-based explorer that owns 30 percent of the field. “What you’ve got to do is to be extremely vigilant as an industry to make sure that you don’t mess up.”
The local authority, Dorset County Council, said this week Perenco SA, the French company which took over the field from BP in 2011, should be allowed to continue pumping until 2037, judging there will be no significant impact on the environment.
About 80 miles northeast of Sandbanks, at the village of Balcombe in Sussex, residents take a different view. Last month, campaigners disrupted drilling planned by Cuadrilla Resources Ltd., an explorer whose directors include former BP CEO John Browne. The protesters said drilling could damage water supplies, cause noise pollution and cut property prices.
“There is a huge concern about contamination of ground water with the risk not just to humans but also to livestock,” Ewa Jasiewicz, a spokeswoman for No Dash for Gas, said by phone. In Balcombe, about 85 percent of 770 households oppose fracking, she said, citing a survey conducted by the No Fracking in Balcombe Society.