Government Fracking Controls Not Enough says Angling Trust
Angling and conservation groups have given a lukewarm welcome to this week’s Government announcement that National Parks and Areas of Natural Beauty will be afforded special protection and fracking developments will only be allowed within them under ‘exceptional circumstances’. Although a useful step in the right direction this definition remains unclear and will not prohibit all fracking in these areas.
Other wildlife sites which often include important fisheries, such as Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Special Areas for Conservation (SACs) and Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSIs) as well as nature reserves and Local Wildlife Sites, have been excluded from the new safeguards.
The Angling Trust, National Trust, RSPB, the Salmon and Trout Association, The Wildlife Trusts and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust earlier this year published a major review of the risks that shale gas extraction (‘fracking’) could pose in the UK entitled ‘Are we Fit to frack?’ which put forward ten recommendations to address these risks.
- Avoid sensitive areas for wildlife and water resources by creating shale gas extraction exclusion zones.
- Make Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) mandatory for shale gas extraction proposals.
- Require shale gas operators to pay for a world-class regulatory regime.
- Prevent taxpayers from bearing the costs of accidental pollution.
- Ensure monitoring and testing of shale gas operations is rigorous and independent.
The Angling Trust shares the concerns of other wildlife groups about the impacts of fracking and the potential for water contamination, close to a range of fragile ecosystems and habitats including vulnerable chalk streams. With many of the newly licensed fracking areas either on top of or close to the chalk aquifers of Southern and Eastern England the Trust has pressed for designating all sensitive areas as ‘no frack’ zones. Groundwater contamination poses a threat to all river systems but the English chalk rivers are particularly vulnerable due to the permeable nature of their aquifers.
Angling Trust Campaigns Chief Martin Salter said:
“This is a missed opportunity to ensure that all designated sites, which are highly sensitive and of great value to wildlife and fisheries, are properly protected from the outset. The Angling Trust has once again joined forces with other conservation groups to strongly urge Government to review this decision and deliver meaningful environmental protection and a rigorous system of regulation.
“As we said in our joint report back in March we believe that fracking should only go ahead in the UK if it can be objectively demonstrated that the regulatory framework for the industry is fit for purpose, and offers sufficient protection to the natural and historic environment. The government has simply not done enough to convince anglers and conservationists that the problems experienced in America, with groundwater pollutions and environmental damage, won’t now be repeated over here.”