Government to ban fracking in protected areas with a drilling licence condition

ConsultationThe government is proposing to ban fracking from the surface of England’s best natural and landscape areas. Details here

The ban would apply in new and existing licences. It would cover wildlife areas, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, as well as designated landscapes, such as National Parks.

Fracking would still be allowed beneath these areas under regulations discussed by MPs last week.

The Government is not proposing to bring in new legislation. It said this afternoon it would include a condition in new licences and issue a policy statement for existing licences.

The proposals do not apply to conventional oil and gas operations. Nor do they apply to unconventional operations which do not use high volume hydraulic fracturing. A six-week consultation is now underway.

The RSPB described the proposals as a first step towards protecting some of England most important sites for wildlife from fracking.Friends of the Earth accused the government of fudging plans to protect drinking water aquifers and national parks.

Greenpeace said the proposals wouldn’t stop fracking on the edge of the country’s “most fragile and treasured countryside”. Hannah Martin, Greenpeace’s energy campaigner said:

“Some of England’s special scenery and nature reserves could still be ringed by fracking rigs bringing light, air, water and noise pollution to areas that should be completely protected.”


The proposals apply only to England and cover:

  • National Parks and the Broads
  • Areas for Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • World Heritage Sites
  • Groundwater Source Protection Zones 1
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest
  • Natura 2000 sites designated under the habitats directive. (Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas)
  • Ramsar sites (wetland sites of international importance)

Launching the consultation, the Energy Minister, Andrea Leadsom, said:

“We have the right protections in place to ensure that fracking can go ahead safely without risk to our most beautiful and important natural sites.”

The consultation document said:

“The Government is seeking to ensure that surface activities associated with hydraulic fracturing will not occur in specified protected areas. “

For areas licensed under the new 14th onshore round, the government said: “This would be delivered through the inclusion of a licence condition in new Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs).”

For existing licence areas, the government said a policy statement would indicate that the Secretary of State “is not minded to grant consent” for any programme which includes hydraulic fracturing.

The government said enforcement would be through checks carried out under the work programme “on an individual basis”.

The consultation asks about the impacts of the ban on new and existing licence holders. It also asks whether existing regulation offers enough protection. The consultation closes on 16th December 2015.

A vote by the House of Commons on the regulations dealing with drilling under protected areas had been expected this week. No date has yet been set for it.


Martin Harper, RSPB’s Conservation Director, said:

“We are very pleased the Government has indicated it intends to ban fracking in England’s best places for wildlife, Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It’s also good to see this ban extended to Natura 2000 sites – areas that are important for wildlife at a European level. We welcome the fact that the ban could apply to all existing and future licences for fracking.

“Government still intends to permit fracking beneath these sites, which we don’t think is sensible. The wider regulatory regime around fracking could still be improved and we have yet to see a compelling case that fracking is going to be compatible with the UK’s legally binding climate change commitments. But the announcement of today’s consultation is the first step towards protecting some of England most important sites for wildlife from fracking.”

Friends of the Earth’s energy campaigner Rose Dickinson said:

“While ruling out the frankly ludicrous idea of fracking straight through drinking water aquifers, Government plans will still allow fracking in protected areas that surround and feed these aquifers with water.

“The public has made it clear that they don’t want fracking to take place in national parks and wildlife sites – allowing it directly beneath these areas will further undermine public confidence in the Government on this issue.

“It is time for the Government to follow in the footsteps of Scotland and Wales by halting all plans for fracking – which is completely incompatible with tackling climate change.”

Hannah Martin, of Greenpeace, said:

“The government has delayed a vote in the House of Commons that was expected today on the regulations that allow fracking to take place under National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites.”

“Greenpeace believes the vote is now expected in the coming weeks, but the government will not be drawn on when and is still refusing a full debate. This is furthering accusations that the government is pushing the regulations through the parliamentary process hastily and without scrutiny.”

“People who love and live in the spectacular countryside and nature near the Peak District, the North York Moors, the South Downs, and who care about climate change will not stand for a government which is only listening to the fracking industry lobbyists, and riding roughshod over local wishes to industrialise our most beautiful scenery and damage the climate.”

Government’s fracking regulations ‘unlawful’ – QC

A senior lawyer consulted by Friends of the Earth has said government regulations covering fracking below protected areas were unlawful.

In a written legal opinion, David Wolfe QC said the regulations, currently before parliament, were inconsistent with government statements and existing legislation.

He said they “undermine and are inconsistent” with the Infrastructure Act, which became law in February. They have no practical impact, he added, and “could not be said properly to implement the parliamentary intention”. He added: “Parliament does not legislate in vain”

The Draft Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing (Protected Areas) Regulations 2015, approved by a committee of MPs last Tuesday, provide definitions of “protected areas” referred to in the Infrastructure Act. They cover National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites but not the other protected areas mentioned in today’s consultation.

2 replies »

  1. If you can drill underneath these areas it is NOT a ban and describing it as such is misleading and wrong. This could also lead to communities which live on the outskirts of these areas having an even higher density of drill pads sited in and around them .

  2. Fracking was deemed unconstitutional and outlawed in Pennsylvania in December 2013 due to its constitution declaring the right to fresh water, fresh air and a clean environment.

    Our land laws are being subverted and prostituted to the interests of corporates with the UK government ignoring its duty of care to the citizens of the UK.

    Currently NOAA mapping shows the smog and toxins coming over from mainland Europe give hazardous health pollutants to the East coast, with Yorkshire being the central landing target for it, along with toxic smog coming down from Newcastle’s dirty industries when northerlies blow, which is most weeks in England.

    The world Wildlife agency predicted in the early 2000’s that regions above Yorkshire and below Lancashire would be suffering water shortages by 2070 probably that will now be revised to earlier due to influx of immigration since then , and new water guzzling industries now raping and pillaging water supplies with little to no scrutiny or enforcement of England’s regulations and laws.

    Councils in both counties need to deliver a proper planning remit to assure rate payers in their communities that they will deliver plans that do not add to that major health hazard by consenting to planning applications that will exacerbate an already dangerous situation. Consenting to fracking WILL pollute already low levels of water and deliver biocides and release other pollutants into that supply, as well as adding diesel ethane, methane and other air polluting toxins. Licensing fracking in these regions is like giving a license to kill the inhabitants councils are suppose to be protecting.

    I hope David Wolfe also takes a look at ancient land laws as yet unrepealed which are being heinously contradicted by wibbly wobbly Mickey Mouse regulations, thus pouring scorn on the rights, entitlements, due diligence and duty of care built into the Brit Constitution over 2000 years, now being thrown away or prostituted to the corporate fracking cause. Rights to frack MUST not leave liability for the damage and danger and assault on life and the environment with local councils and the land owners whose land will be trampled over, and who depend upon councils and the land LAWS to keep them safe. Common land exists in Yorkshire and if we are not careful it will be trampled by frackers pretending to be safely fracking underneath precious areas nearby with farmers rights and ramblers rights suddenly taken away by some new legislation slipped unnoticed through parliament if we are not careful. The Duchey of Lancashire documents also need investigating for built in protections agreed at the time when crown rights and government demands will have stipulated the sharing of access to mineral rights and land laws will be clearly defined in those, and should still be adhered to, not subverted in a fracking race to riches and corporate rule

    In addition for the government to give away landowner rights to fracker friends, when the crown only is granted mineral shares, while ladnowners own all under their foundations to the centre of the earth, is breathtakingly arrogant, and not in the national interest at all, and should never have been allowed to pass through the hands of some half baked, ill informed parliamentarian with little respect for hard won individual thousand year old rights. Fine if the minerals sought are life sustaining and of benefit for all, but fracking is none of these, quite the opposite and I would warrant the Duchey agreements negate the capacity and legality of this shameful handover of our rights to get rich quick frackers.

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