Response to the Government’s consultation on restrictions for fracking

In November the Department of Energy and Climate Change published ‘Surface Development Restrictions for Hydraulic Fracturing’, a consultation setting out how the Government plans to restrict fracking on the surface of National Parks and other protected areas. We have responded to this consultation with a couple of key points.

Firstly, we are pleased that proposals would ban surface drilling in protected areas, and are generally supportive of the Government doing this through introducing restrictions on licence conditions.

However, we are very concerned that the current proposals do not prevent fracking from taking place under National Parks and other protected areas, especially as we don’t yet know what the longer-term effects of this would be on an area’s wildlife and natural beauty. Given this lack of certainty, there should be a complete ban on hydraulic fracturing in protected areas at any depth.

It is entirely appropriate that such environmentally sensitive areas should be given stronger protection from fracking. Much of the existing protection is insufficient as it is set out in guidance which does not carry the same weight as regulations. The 2014 guidance on planning for fracking says: ‘Where applications represent major development, planning permission should be refused in National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated they are in the public interest.’ This effectively reiterates the major development test as set out in national planning policy. As demonstrated by the recent approval of the potash mine in the North York Moors, this policy is open to interpretation and has failed to provide sufficient protection to National Parks from damaging development.

We recognise that National Parks have a key role to play in delivering the types of energy infrastructure that will be required to meet the UK’s targets for carbon reduction and renewable energy supply. However we believe that this needs to be done by only introducing infrastructure which is appropriate for National Parks and does not damage the landscape, tranquillity and special qualities of these beautiful places.  This means there should be a complete ban on fracking in the protected areas at any depth.

We are calling on the Government to provide greater certainty about where fracking is clearly not allowed and thus recognise the significant environmental, economic and societal benefits of National Parks.

Read our full consultation response here

For further information about any aspect of this response, please contact Ruth Bradshaw, Policy and Research Manager (email:ruthb@cnp.org.uk, tel: 020 7981 0896)