Councillors who oppose fracking could end up deciding if a new private company is allowed to build a drilling well to hunt for shale gas.

London Local Energy has applied to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) for a licence to extract shale gas in a swathe of London stretching from Harrow in the north-west corner to Westminster in the south-east boundary - an area inhabited by about 1million people across parts of nine boroughs.

The firm's director Nick Grealy, of Kingston-Upon-Thames, south-west London, earmarked already industrialised Park Royal - most of which falls within Brent's boundaries - as the best place for a test well and, if gas is found, the single extraction site.

This would put the company on a collision course with Brent Council, whose Labour administration has publicly opposed fracking, because the authority's planning committee would have to decide on any planning application from London Local Energy to build or install drilling rigs.

Jenny Jones, a London Assembly Member for the Green Party, has similarly criticised the London Local Energy's move to exploit highly urbanised parts of the capital.

Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt
Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt
 

Councillor Muhammed Butt (Labour), leader of Brent Council, told Friends Of The Earth Brent in a letter: "It’s heartening to know that so many Brent residents passionately oppose hydraulic fracturing as much as the council does; as you say, 'Fracking is a dirty word'.

"I’m sure you’ve been as dismayed to read that the ConDem Government now intend to overhaul trespass legislation to make it easier for fracking firms to gain access without permission of landowners.

"We are currently exploring what new legislation regarding planning law gives us the opportunity to prevent contractors by law.

"As you know, Brent has no intention whatsoever to grant contractors with licences to carry out shale gas extraction in our borough.

"In November, we decided to go beyond the standard motion. Hitting the headlines wasn’t just a stunt though – we are obligated to protect our residents from harm.

"We will use what legal power we can to defend local residents, their homes and neighbourhoods against the dangers of fracking."