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Draft regulations published over fracking in safeguarded areas

by on July 23, 2015

The government has published the draft regulations which set out the conditions under which hydraulic fracturing would be allowed to take place beneath National Parks, Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, the Broads and World Heritage Sites. The administration is stipulating that fracking can only take place below 1,200 metres in those areas.

The government pointed out that drinking water aquifers were not normally found below 400 metres.

The statement said that the government had a “clear commitment to ensure that fracking cannot be conducted from wells that are drilled in the surface of National Parks and other protected areas in such a way as to not impact on conventional drilling operations”.

This does mean that operations under protected areas could still take place from outside their boundaries. Environmentalists have voiced concern that these particular safeguards do not include sites of special scientific interest as originally expected – and promised.

A DECC spokesperson said “The National Planning Policy Framework already makes clear that development should not normally be permitted if it is likely to have an adverse effect on a site of special scientific interest.”

The draft regulations surfaced in the wake of the publication of the latest report from the industry-backed Task Force on Shale Gas which insisted local environmental impacts from fracking projects can be kept within “acceptable limits”, provided best practices are embraced and stringent regulations are introduced and adhered to.

The report proposed forward a series of measures designed to strengthen the monitoring of shale gas wells and ensure full disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking projects.

The report also called for a relaxation of current planning requirements that require full planning consent before boreholes can be drilled for monitoring purposes.

View the draft regulations

Roger Milne

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