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MPs vote to frack under National Parks

Fracking to be allowed under World Heritage Sites and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty
MPs vote to frack under National Parks Picture from MyGreenPod Sustainable News

MPs have voted by 298 – 261 in favour of fracking under National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), World Heritage Sites and Groundwater Protection Zones.

A number of Conservative MPs rebelled against the government in yesterday’s vote on the government’s Draft Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing (Protected Areas) Regulations 2015, though the full breakdown of how MPs voted is yet to be released.

Sidestepping regulations

The government had previously committed to an ‘outright ban’ on fracking in National Parks, AONBs and SSSIs. However, the latest regulations attempt to sidestep this by allowing underground drilling in the fissures deep below protected areas.

‘What we have seen today is the government breaking its promise and forcing through regulations which will allow fracking underneath some of the most fragile and treasured landscapes in Britain. These areas have been protected for a reason: stunning areas like the Peak District, the North York Moors and the South Downs.

‘And it’s clear that the Tories can’t even convince some of their own MPs that fracking under National Parks and other Areas of Natural Beauty is a good idea – so why should the public believe them?’

Hannah Martin, energy campaigner at Greenpeace

Conservation areas

SSSIs are conservation areas for wildlife and rare plants. There are around 4,000 in the UK, protecting 8% of land. There are 15 National Parks in England, Scotland and Wales, covering 22,658 square kilometres: more than a tenth of the area of Great Britain.

Greenpeace estimates that 300 square kilometres of the North York Moors, 75 square kilometres of the Peak District and smaller areas of the South Downs could now be open to fracking.

‘I voted against the proposals. Although the government has listened to concerns raised and made a number of concessions, I do not believe that they go far enough to protect environmentally sensitive areas such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.’

Conservative MP Andrew Turner, whose Isle of Wight constituency is under threat of fracking

Affected areas

The regulations state fracking would be allowed under National Parks and other protected areas – as long as it involves drilling sideways from outside the protected area.

This map shows the AONBs and National Parks that could be affected and this map shows the SSSIs at risk.

‘The UK government has just participated in a historic climate agreement in Paris, but if it’s to hold up its end of the bargain it has to rethink its support for fracking and back safe, cheap, clean energy instead.

‘As a result of today’s vote, these places can now be fracked in all but name. Whether the fracking infrastructure is set up just outside the boundaries of national parks is a moot point: these previously protected areas could be ringed by drilling rigs, floodlights and compressors – and play host to thousands of lorry movements – meaning the most precious landscapes in our country are blighted by noise, air and light pollution.’

Hannah Martin, energy campaigner at Greenpeace

Impact on World Heritage status

Pollution caused by the thousands of lorry movements transporting equipment and fluids, noise from compressors and 24 hour floodlighting around the perimeters of these areas is expected to spill over into Britain’s most precious countryside.

‘The UK government was supportive in opposing oil extraction from under Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga, because it was a UNESCO World Heritage site. In their own words, this government wants to set the ‘gold standard’ on protecting special places. There appears to be an embarrassing gap between the government’s rhetoric, and the policies being proposed.

‘World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has consistently stated that exploitation of extractives, including oil and gas, is incompatible with World Heritage site status. If ministers grant concessions that allow fracking under World Heritage sites, they will be undermining the view of the World Heritage Committee that some places are too precious to put at risk.’

WWF UK CEO David Nussbaum

Click here to find out more about the Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing (Protected Areas) Regulations 2015.

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