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Sussex Wildlife Trust calls for fracking ban in National Parks

Petra Billings, SWT landscapes officer, at Celtique's proposed drilling site in Wisborough Green. Installing a bat monitoring devive. Photo by Derek Martin

Petra Billings, SWT landscapes officer, at Celtique's proposed drilling site in Wisborough Green. Installing a bat monitoring devive. Photo by Derek Martin

AFTER calls from the National Trust for a ‘fracking’ ban in national parks, the Sussex Wildlife Trust has spoken out about the environmental risks.

THE National Trust has warned that environmental regulations for shale gas exploration are “inadequate” and says fracking should be banned in national parks.

The move has been welcomed by groups campaigning to prevent oil and gas exploration around the South Downs National Park, including Fernhurst and Wisborough Green.

DR Petra Billings of the Sussex Wildlife Trust is part of the partnership of organisations calling for a ban on ‘fracking’ in National Parks and sensitive areas.

She said: “We are extremely concerned at the high environmental risks involved in fracking, including water pollution, habitat loss and fragmentation, and wildlife disturbance.

“We don’t believe that current regulation is fit for purpose. We think our recommendations are common sense, for example, frack-free zones for our most special landscapes, mandatory Environmental Impact Assessments, full transparency of the industry and independent monitoring.”

West Sussex is one of the first counties to face fracking, with plans for exploratory drilling under consideration by WSCC at Wisborough Green and Fernhurst, the latter being in the South Downs National Park.

Petra added: “Communities are extremely concerned that if exploratory drilling is permitted at these sites, proposals for fracking may follow. There is massive opposition to these proposals. I hope WSCC will consider our recommendations.”

The National Trust announcement coincides with a new report prepared for DECC which is expected to confirm that scientists have discovered potential onshore oil resources in South East England.

Oil-bearing shale rocks in the Weald area spanning parts of Sussex, Hampshire, Kent and Surrey are believed to be as rich in oil as the North Sea fields.

The reserves would offer Britain greater energy security and help drive down prices - but would have to be extracted by fracking.

A report into the ‘Jurassic Weald Basin’ reserve has been prepared by the British Geological Survey and passed to DECC, and could be made public within weeks. Richard Selley, professor of petroleum exploration at Imperial College London, who will advise the DECC on the report, told The Sunday Times: “The discovery of oil in the Weald should not be a surprise because there is already a number of small oil fields around the North and South Downs and also oil seeps. The amount is likely to be less than under the North Sea, but it is clear these rocks have a high oil content.”

 

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