There are 65 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Staffordshire at risk of Fracking today following the government’s U-turn to protect these sites from the exploitation of the shale gas industry.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has laid draft regulations before parliament on 16th July covering which areas would be protected from fracking and has confirmed that these important wildlife and countryside protection sites would not be protected under the regulations and that exploration for shale gas would no longer be prevented in SSSI sites.
A DECC spokesman said: “We consider that their [SSSI’s] protections are adequate under the planning system. Developments won’t normally be permitted if they were going to have an adverse impact on a SSSI. The number of them would have an adverse effect on the development of the shale gas industry.”
Fracking will still be excluded from national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, the Broads and world heritage sites under the new plans, though shale companies will be allowed to put a rig outside a national park and drill horizontally underneath it.
The draft regulations, which will be debated in September, also state that fracking would be allowed under protected groundwater source areas, where drinking water is gathered. Even under the most sensitive of those groundwater areas (SPZ1s), fracking will be allowed so long as it is at depths of more than 1,200 metres. A limit deeper than that would “hinder the exploitation of potentially valuable shale gas reserves”, the regulations said. No public consultation was held on either the dropping of SSSIs from the list of protected areas from where fracking would be excluded, or how deep the groundwater limits should be set. SSSIs are described by government officials as the “best of our wildlife, geological and physiographical heritage”.
The latest announcement comes in the same week an industry-backed task force published a new report arguing the government’s regulatory regime should be strengthened further, primarily through the introduction of independent monitoring of fracking wells
My comment to the press as Cannock Chase Local Party Co-ordinator
“This is another attack on the beautiful Staffordshire Countryside and I call upon our MP Amanda Milling, as well as all other Staffordshire MP’s, to oppose this legislation and ensure we have adequate protection for our Countryside from this environmentally unsafe practice”
“We continue to highlight the plight of our countryside from the effects of austerity with plans from the local authority to consider private management or ownership of up to 6000 acres of Staffordshire countryside and this is further attack on our heritage. We are custodians of the area and have a responsibility to future generations to protect the integrity of our green spaces. Fracking represents the worst form of exploitation with an unproven technology which would create untold damage to the area. We are grateful for the support of over 9,400 people in highlighting the protection of the Staffordshire Countryside and ask others to sign up to our petition https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-staffordshire-countryside-aonb to ensure we maintain our much loved green spaces”
I will also be writing another post regarding Fracking in the County “Minerals Local Plan 2015-2030”.