The South Down National Park’s authority has unanimously decided to reject a bid by fracking firm Celtique Energie to undertake exploratory drilling near Fenhurst in Sussex, because of the adverse effects the operations could have on the ecosystem and landscape.
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In rejecting the proposal, chair of the South Downs National Park Authority, Margaret Paren, said, “The applicant has failed to demonstrate exceptional circumstances exist and that it would be in the public interest for such exploration to take place within the protected landscape of the South Downs. Planning permission was also refused because of the adverse impact on the tranquillity and amenity of the national park.”
Local residents and environmentalists have welcomed the announcement, with Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) saying the decision was ‘common sense’. However, Celtique Energie said it would appeal to the decision, which was put on hold back in February, awaiting more detail on the environmental impact of the activity.
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The company’s chief executive Geoff Davies said, “The decision fails to take into consideration the importance of this project to the nation and the comprehensive steps Celtique would be taking to ensure that all exploration work would be done sensitively during the very temporary period we would be working in the national park.”
Controversy arose when the government opened up British national park for fracking – a much criticised process that pumps a mix of chemicals, water and sands into rocks to release oil or gas – under ‘exceptional circumstances’. This is despite the majority of Britons opposing the measure, according to a recent poll.
Commenting on the rejected bid, Friends of the Earth South East campaigner, Brenda Pollack, said, “If we can’t protect Britain’s national parks from the threat of fracking, then nowhere is safe.
“The benefits of fracking have been hugely over-hyped. With the need to tackle climate change becoming more urgent than ever, it’s time to build a sustainable energy future based on efficiency and renewable power.”
However, the industry has criticised the decision. Ken Cronin, chief executive of UK Onshore Oil & Gas (UKOOG) argued the drilling in areas of outstanding beauty has occurred before.
“The UK has one of the strongest regulatory systems in the world for onshore development. In light of the overwhelming need and the strict regulatory regime the decision today is regrettable,” he said.
Photo: Tez Goodyer via Flickr