Fracking for oil in the borough could begin next year if the Government grants an exploration licence to a company that believes there could be millions of barrels of oil under the area.

Nick Grealy, the CEO of London Local Energy, which has applied for a Hydro Carbon Licence promised the work would make no difference to the community, and people would not even know it was there.

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Nick Grealy said no-one would notice fracking was happening in Merton

But environmental groups fear beauty spots, town centres, businesses and homes could all be blighted if the higly controversial procedure - which involves extracting gas and oil, by pumping water and chemicals into the ground at high pressure - is permitted.

Tom Walsh of Sustainable Merton said: "We are concerned about it because the stories coming out of America are not encouraging.

"There seems to be a lot of pollution involved. In a broader issue if we go down this route of using more fossil fuels in this way we are never going to wean ourselves off it."

He added Sustainable Merton would not support the plans, and only those set to benefit financially would support it.

Charles Barraball from the Merton Green party said: "I think granting the licences for drilling down when we have nothing in place to safe-guard water supplies and when we know the quantity of oil to be extracted is limited is a profound waste of time. 

"We should be concentrating on generating electricity from renewables and founding an industry which will protect jobs now and in the future for my grandchildren and great-grand children." 

Merton Friends of the Earth staged a protest in Wimbledon as far back as October 2013 against fracking, calling on Merton Council to declare itself frack free.

That protest does not appear to be a result of specific plans, whereas Mr Grealy is currently waiting to hear to see if the licence has been granted by the Government. He is expecting a response by August this year and if successful said drilling could start at the end of next year.

Mr Grealy said: "If there’s oil and gas there it is a process we have to invest in for two to three years.

"We would be looking for a brownfield industrial estate - we need a warehouse."

He said the rocks underground mean Merton is a sought after area but further investigation would be needed before they knew what was there.

Mr Grealy wanted to re-assure the community, and said no-one would notice they were there, despite plans to drill on a three acre site and build a mini power station and underground pipeline system.

He said: "Once we drill a well that takes a week.

"We have to put valves in to connect a pipeline system.

"We would have only one warehouse - no-one would know it was there."

As well as Merton, the company has applied for a licence in north London and parts of Surrey too.

It said in a statement there could be several million barrels of oil underneath London and until now, exploration was unfeasible.

It said its long term plan was to convert the industrial or brownfield sites used for fracking into housing for local people.

There has been a lot of opposition to fracking in other areas, with Green MP Caroline Lucas being cleared of public order offences after joining demonstrators in West Sussex.

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