The South Downs National Park Authority is to tell the government that no more oil or gas licences should be sold in protected landscapes.
The comment will be part of the authority’s response to a government consultation on the next round of Petroleum Development and Exploration Licences (PEDL).
The news emerged in a statement from the South Downs National Park Authority made in response to a decision to put on hold a planning application from Celtique Energie for exploratory drilling in the National Park.
The statement said: “We will be responding to the Government consultation on the Strategic Environmental Assessment for the next onshore licensing round to ensure that the impacts on National Parks are properly considered before further licenses are issued. We will be arguing that it is not appropriate to issue additional licences within protected landscapes using the evidence we are currently gathering.”
A spokesperson for the authority confirmed that the statement referred to any oil and gas exploration and development, both conventional and unconventional operations, including fracking. By protected landscapes, it meant both National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Authority said “all development in the National Park must respect the landscape, reflect the highest standards of design and sustainability and was undertaken only on the basis of extensive, top quality evidence and research.”
The proposed new PEDL licences cover about 60% of the UK and include parts of the following National Parks:
- South Downs
- New Forest
- Peak District
- North York Moors
- Yorkshire Dales
There are also 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK. Among those covered by the new licence areas are:
- Norfolk Coast
- Lincolnshire Wolds
- High Weald
- Kent Downs
- Black Down Hills
- Cranbourne Chase
- North Wessex Downs
- Forest of Bowland
Celtique Energie submitted an application for exploratory drilling near the village of Fernhurst, in the South Downs National Park. Last week, the South Downs National Park Authority put the application on hold because it said the company had not included “significant details” in its environmental statement.
Cuadrilla Resources is currently applying for planning permission to flow test its oil well at Balcombe, which is in the High Weald AONB.
The South Downs National Park Authority will make its formal responses to the government consultation next month. The deadline for responses is March 28th and the Department of Energy and Climate Change has said that the new round of licences is likely to be issued “later this Spring”.