By Gemma Childe on 11th Jul 2012
Test drilling for shale gas has been given the go-ahead by the Wales Planning Inspectorate (WPI) in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The Bridgend firm Coastal Oil and Gas appealed after initially being refused permission and will now be allowed to proceed with exploratory drilling, known as fracking, on Llandow industrial estate.
The high-pressure hydraulic fracturing involves rocks such as shale with a mix of water, sand and chemicals.
Opponents in the UK and the United States, where it is widespread, say it can cause environmental pollution and ill health in local populations and Friends of the Earth Cymru (FoEC) has criticised the decision.
Gareth Clubb, FoEC director, said: "This decision has opened the floodgates for fracking test drilling to occur right across Wales.
"More than half of the Welsh population lives in areas that have the potential to be fracking sites, so while this might be good news for a few rich corporations it's very bad news for the people of Wales."
Planning inspector Emyr Jones said: "A significant number of objectors raise concerns as to possible future proposals for gas extraction and the process known as hydraulic fracturing in particular.
"Whilst I understand these concerns, the proposal before me does not include extraction, whether by hydraulic fracturing or otherwise."
He said any fracking proposals would require a further application and the local development plan made it clear that the grant of planning permission for exploration would not indicate a presumption in favour of future exploitation of any minerals found.
The inspector also imposed a number of conditions, including drilling to be confined to between the months of October and March, a noise impact scheme and monitoring for vibration.
He said he was satisfied that the drilling would be at noise levels which would not have unacceptable impacts on local homes, businesses or species.
Vale of Glamorgan MP Alun Cairns added: "I'm bitterly disappointed with the decision.
"I, and many local residents and businesses, are very concerned about the effects of the exploration process for shale gas and the potential fracking procedure for its extraction if the gas is indeed found below ground."