‘Unjustifiable damage’ is how a countryside protection group has branded plans to frack in the South Downs National Park.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has turned to the South Downs National Park (SDNP) for onshore oil and gas exploration licensing, according to The Sunday Times earlier this month.
But the director of Campaign to Protect Rural England Sussex (CPRE), Georgia Wrighton, said the organisation ‘opposes’ any plans to allow extraction of gas and oil in the SDNP, and warns that such measures could affect the appearance, traffic and pollution levels of the area.
“There is no need to extract gas or oil from shale within our most exceptional landscapes,” said Mrs Wrighton.
“Local impacts such as the industrial appearance of rigs, HGV traffic levels and light pollution would cause unjustifiable damage to these special areas.
“It is in all our interests to be promoting other lower carbon sources of energy where we can.”
A report commissioned by DECC from the British Geological Survey will give an estimation for the resource of shale gas found in rocks beneath the surface, as revealed by The Sunday Times.
This news comes just months after a planning application to drill for the exploration, testing and evaluation of hydrocarbons over a three year period in Linchmere was submitted to the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) for consideration.
Trevor Beattie, Chief Executive of SDNPA, said he has asked for the ‘impacts of oil and gas drilling in national parks’ to be ‘properly considered’ by the DECC before a licence is acquired.
“The impacts of oil and gas drilling in national parks should be properly considered and assessed before further petroleum exploration and development licences are issued. We now await the government’s adoption statement on the licence areas,” said Mr Beattie.
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has raised concerns of lorry movements and risk to the chalk aquifers.
He said: “It’s essential that these issues are addressed before any licence is granted in the South Downs.
“There’s already oil production in various parts of West Sussex which isn’t controversial, for instance at Storrington and at Singleton which is in the National Park, but some of the proposed locations for new drilling are poorly chosen. I’ve objected to exploration between Kirdford and Wisborough Green because of concern about lorry movements.
“The South Downs are a special and highly protected landscape. Shale gas production might be in the national interest, but so is protecting our most precious countryside.
“I discussed this with the South Downs National Park Authority when I met them last Friday [May 16], and will continue to monitor this issue closely.”