Tighter policies to cover '˜acid fracking' in the South Downs National Park

Tighter policies to cover a new method of fracking have been called for by members of the South Downs National Park Authority in their emerging joint minerals local plan.

Friday, 11th November 2016, 10:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 4:37 pm

The long awaited draft plan which is being produced by West Sussex County Council and the national park, looks set to be published and go out for consultation in January.

But making their recommendation to the full authority, members of the park’s planning committee said yesterday (Thursday, November 10) they were anxious not to leave any loophopes which could be exploited legally by fracking companies.

Alan Alesbury said he believed acidisation was a new method of extracting oil and gas and it was important to specify policies covering specific forms of fracking.

Fellow planning member Doug Jones added: “We need to future proof our mineral plan to include acidisation in case it is argued in the future that it is not fracking.”

Earlier this year the planning committee called for further work on the oil and gas policies in the minerals plan in the absence of clear fracking policy from the government about protecting special landscape areas. They said they wanted to further ‘nail down’ any companies coming forward with fracking plans in the park.

The government has made a commitment to ensure fracking cannot take place at the surface in national parks, but drilling can take place horizontally underneath them.

The South Downs National Park has already split its policy governing oil and gas into two separating conventional and non-conventional drilling to give more clarity.

The draft mineral plan went out for informal consultation earlier this year and since then officers have been revising and updating the draft plan.

The planning committee heard the boundaries of the Ham Farm site at Steyning allocated for a soft sand quarry had been changed after comments made in the consultation.

More than 4000 people signed a petition opposing the site. They said it would have an unacceptable impact on unspoilt countryside, on historic buildings and tourism and cause congestion and road safety issues.

Following the outcry the proposer suggested reducing the size to help address local concerns. A piece of the site has been removed which had a restrictive covenant on it. The uncertainty of being able to deliver sand from this area had also been a concern to national park officers.

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