ANTI-FRACKING campaigners have accused Kent County Council (KCC) of stifling a major public debate over the controversial energy-producing process.
East Kent Against Fracking (EKAF) enlisted the support of county councillor Mike Eddy to use £1,000 of member grant funds to hold an event at Pines Calyx, St Margaret's, in the summer.
Organisers insisted they would invite speakers to represent both sides of the argument, but KCC's Cabinet member for community services Mike Hill refused to sign off the grant.
Cllr Hill failed to respond to Express enquiries this week, but a council spokesman said the application was refused because "it did not meet the criteria laid down for a combined members grant".
Cllr Eddy said: "A lot of people know very little about fracking and I thought it was in everyone's interest to have a proper debate about it.
"This is the first occasion I have known any Cabinet member refuse to sign something off."
Applications for exploratory drilling in Guston, Shepherdswell and Tilmanstone were lodged last year but later withdrawn when the Environment Agency stated they lacked fundamental detail.
But an earlier application for drilling in Woodnesborough, near Sandwich, was approved in December 2011.
Supporters say fracking could lower UK energy prices, while opponents say it could contaminate the water supply.
KCC decides the fate of drilling applications, despite the Green Party revealing it holds £153m of shares in eight firms involved in extracting shale oil and gas.
This week the in-house geologist for applicants Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd, Oliver Taylor, told the Express there were no immediate plans to begin drilling in Dover district, but "investigations are ongoing".
Rosemary Rechter, chairman of EKAF, said: "It increasingly seems to us that KCC unthinkingly endorses the government's dash for gas, and seeks to stifle all dissenting views when it should be encouraging an open and informed debate."
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