Four National Parks identified as suitable for fracking attract millions of visitors, who spend nearly £2bn a year.
A study by Durham University released today, said the South Downs, North York Moors, Peak District and Yorkshire Dales have rocks that are suitable for fracking for shale oil and gas or coal bed methane.
Of the 15 UK National Parks, this four account for 74m visitor days a year, or 44% of the 170.25m total.
Data from the National Parks UK shows that the South Downs has the highest number of visitor days at 39m, even though it is the second smallest in size.
The Yorkshire Dales is ranked sixth, at 12.6m visitors, followed by the Peak District at number seven (11.75m visitors) and the North York Moors at number eight (10.8m visitors).
Visitors to the South Downs, North York Moors, Peak District and Yorkshire Dales spend 1.812bn, or 34% of total spending in UK National Parks (£5.34bbn).
The Peak District ranks third on spending by visitors at £541m a year, followed by the North York Moors at number four (£538m a year), the Yorkshire Dales at number six (£400m) and the South Downs at number eight.
Other National Parks
Durham University said four more National Parks (Brecon Beacons, Exmoor, New Forest, Northumberland) have shale or coal measures where gas or oil could be fracked but their geology makes fracking unlikely.
The remaining seven (Broads, Cairngorms, Dartmoor, Lake District, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, Pembrokeshire Coast and Snowdonia) have geology which rules out fracking for shale gas, shale oil, or coalbed methane.
During debates on the Infrastructure Act, the government said fracking would not happen in National Parks but it said it was not practical to prevent fracking under them, from wellheads outside the park boundary.
Durham University classified the frackability of the country’s 15 National Park by looking at the underlying geology. It said three types of hydrocarbon bearing rocks are targeted by fracking companies: gas-bearing shales, oil-bearing shales and gas-bearing coals. All three are fine-grained sedimentary rocks in which fracking could be used to extract shale gas and oil or coal bed methane.
South Downs There are already oil and gas production sites. The British Geological Survey identified potential for fracking for shale oil. Celtique Energie was refused planning permission to drill a well at Fernhurst, in the north west of the National Park last year.
North York Moors Rocks include hydrocarbon bearing shales and oil and gas production is already underway. The region is already of interest to fracking companies.
Peak District Long been an area of hydrocarbon exploration, including the oldest onshore well in the UK at Tibshelf, Derbyshire, drilled in 1919. Hydrocarbon-bearing shales and coals might be of interested to fracking companies
Yorkshire Dales Shales and coals found in the south of the National Park and may be prospective for gas, according to the British Geological Survey.
Brenda Pollack, south-east campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: ““Any future government must actively discourage the reckless pursuit of fossil fuels, including shale gas and oil. Climate Change is one of the biggest threats to our National Parks. Leaving fossil fuels in the ground will avoid local impacts, such as more lorries and noise, at the same time as avoiding increased global temperatures.
“Whoever forms the next Government must stick to their promises and make sure no fracking takes place in the South Downs. In any case, the best way to ensure no fracking under our National Parks and other designated areas is to ban fracking anywhere.”