REPRESENTATIVES from Hampshire communities came together to thrash out growing concerns over fracking.

Friends of the Earth told a conference in Winchester that the extraction of shale gas and oil is an “unnecessary gamble” while Frack Free Solent warned of pollution.

The warnings come after Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead predicted residents will lose their chance to block fracking under their homes if changes to trespass laws, outlined in the Queen's Speech, come into force.

As previously reported, Hampshire is a shale gas hot spot, with eight drilling licences for possible fracking already issued to gas companies at sites across the county.

At a conference attended by 200 people at the Guildhall, Brenda Pollock of Friends of the Earth said: “We believe that it is a gamble that we do not need to take. It is an unnecessary gamble and it has not been welcomed by local communities.

“Our view is that good regulation can make fracking safer but it can't actually make fracking safe.

“The reality is that communities don't want it, the local people don't have very much faith from regulators. They don't want sweeteners from the Government - they want to enjoy their quality of life.”

Helen Crow of the RSPB agreed that the UK needs to stop using fossil fuels because climate change is endangering wildlife and that fracking would result in habitat loss. She called for sensitive wildlife sites to be avoided if fracking was to go ahead in the county.

Meanwhile, Tim Dawes of the Green Party and anti-fracking organisation Frack Free Solent said that if fracking took place in the south, Hampshire would be polluted with leaking frack fluid, methane, heavy metals and radioactive materials while residents are subjected to constant noise from machinery.

The event also featured talks on the process of fracking and the procedure companies need to go through to gain permission to extract shale gas and oil by the University of Southampton, Hampshire County Council, Government bodies and UKOOG who represent the UK onshore oil and gas industry.

Cllr Seán Woodward said: “I'm in favour of finding out if there is a useable source of gas under Hampshire because every home owner or business owner will tell you that energy prices are shocking so anything we can to do generate our own supply of energy is very important.

“If Hampshire has a production site for energy then of course that is going to bring prosperity to local communities.

“The government have said that the people extracting mineral have to pay a percentage over to the local communities so there is a dedicated community benefit so the local community gets a share of the profits. Of course there will also be jobs created and taxes paid.”

The conference last Thursday was organised by Hampshire County Council, Southampton City Council, the New Forest National Park Authority and Portsmouth City Council.