Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel and South Downs, has highlighted increasing concerns in rural England about the impact fracking may have on our matchless countryside. Shaun Spiers, the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s Chief Executive replies: "Part of the problem, as Nick Herbert says, is that a lack of clear information leads to a “fear of the unknown”. Local suspicions are reinforced by the insensitive approach of some shale gas enthusiasts, fuelling concerns that fracking is a done deal."The recent production of planning guidance on shale gas without any public consultation only reinforces the perception that the Government's first priority is to remove barriers to the industry, rather than to protect our precious countryside, safeguard people’s health and well-being, and address the concerns of local communities.
If fracking goes ahead, it should only be as a temporary measure to ensure fuel security and reduce the use of coal. In the longer term, the Government must commit to an energy strategy that moves away from dependence on fossil fuels.A transparent and democratic planning process is needed to direct shale gas exploitation to the least damaging locations; tough regulations must minimise its impact, both long-term and short-term,on the landscape, water resources and local people; and the industry must commit to adequate compensation for any damage caused, and meet demanding restoration conditions.
Shaun Spiers concluded: ‘The countryside has always provided us with fuel, but with fracking we have every right to be cautious. The decisions we take now could have a huge impact both on the beauty and tranquillity of rural England, and on Britain’s ability to address climate change.’