Politics

Tory MPs call for a ban on fracking in ancient woodlands

Ancient woodlandThree Conservative MPs have urged the government to extend the ban on fracking in protected areas to ancient woodlands.

Their case, raised during a parliamentary debate, was also supported by the SNP.

The government is proposing to prevent fracking from the surface of National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and wildlife area protected under European and international legislation. It is currently consulting on the plans. DrillOrDrop report

Rebecca PowYesterday’s debate was called by Rebecca Pow, Conservative MP for Taunton Deane in Somerset, who described ancient woodlands as an “irreplaceable parts of our heritage”.

Her fellow backbencher, Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton – where Third Energy is seeking to frack – invited her to support his call for greater protection. He told the debate:

Kevin Hollinrake“My constituency has 1,400 ancient trees, but we have also had one of the UK’s first applications for shale gas fracking. Will she join me in pressing for a change to include ancient woodland in the protected areas specified by the new Government regulations?”

Ms Pow, a former environment journalist, said she hoped the government would take this point on board.

“Fracking in such areas would seriously disturb the glorious biodiversity and we should think seriously about protecting them. He [Mr Hollinrake] makes an important point.”

She added:

“We might assume that something as precious as ancient woodland would already be protected, but that is not the case.”

“Sites of special scientific interest offer protection, but they cover only 17% of ancient woodland.”

Julian LewisAnother Conservative, Julian Lewis (New Forest East), said fracking should be tried in other areas first.

“We know that hydraulic fracturing may well yield great dividends for our country’s economy, but there are plenty of parts of the United Kingdom where we can master the technology long before we need to bring it anywhere near those particularly precious areas that have been designated as national parks.”

He appealed to the government:

“By all means explore fracking technology, but they should make sure that they know what they are doing, by practice and by developing a successful industry based on hydraulic fracturing in less sensitive areas of the country, before approaching anywhere near our ancient woodlands and national parks.”

John Mc NallyThe SNP’s John Mc Nally, who represents Falkirk, where there are prospects of shale gas, said ancient woodlands needed additional protection.

“While some ancient woodland is indeed located within a national park or area of outstanding natural beauty, that is simply not good enough protection to ensure ancient woodland is not impacted by or lost to development. I absolutely agree with Kevin Hollinrake, who mentioned the issue of fracking in such areas.”

George EusticeThe environment minister, George Eustice, did not refer to fracking when he responded to the debate. And he said existing planning law was enough to protect ancient woodlands.

“The Government consider that the existing protection for ancient woodland in the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] is strong and is protecting our ancient woodlands and veteran trees.”

But he said he would “relay some of the concerns expressed and proposals” to the woodlands minister, Rory Stewart, who did not take part in the debate.

5 replies »

  1. Is this the attitude of all MP’s – OK to fracking , just NOT where I live? “We know that hydraulic fracturing may well yield great dividends for our country’s economy, but there are plenty of parts of the United Kingdom where we can master the technology long before we need to bring it anywhere near those particularly precious areas that have been designated as national parks.”

    IS NOT ALL OUR COUNTRY PRECIOUS?
    ARE NOT ALL OUR PEOPLE PRECIOUS??
    ARE THE AIR WE BREATHE AND THE WATER WE DRINK NOT PRECIOUS???

  2. No setback limits, buffer zones in the Joint Waste & Minerals Plan for Ryedale & North Yorkshire, no restriction of fracking traffic traveling through the centre of villages (unlike quarrying) When are our MPs going to care and protect people as well?

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