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Sussex MPs must challenge government U-turn that puts our beauty spots at risk

Friday, 04 September 2015 11:23

Buzzards in South Downs National Park © Photography Buzzards in South Downs National Park © Photography

CPRE Sussex is urging all Sussex MPs to challenge the Government’s new fracking laws after a “serious U-turn” in legislation puts some of the county’s best loved beauty spots at risk.

Earlier this year Ministers promised to ban fracking in ‘protected areas’ under the new Infrastructure Act 2015. However, a highly controversial draft amendment now allows deep drilling under the South Downs National Park and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOBs) like Ashdown Forest. The amendment also withdraws promised protection for Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) like Pulborough Brooks, Chailey Common and Parham Park.

This change of heart has been met with horror by CPRE Sussex which is writing to all the county’s MPs and to The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, urging them to rethink the legislation.

“Our concern arises from the fact that the draft regulations would only ban fracking within National Parks and AONBs at depths of less than 1,200m, and would not apply to SSSIs outside those areas at all,” says the letter.

“Given that the SDNP and AONBs were designated by statute for their landscape and scenic beauty, we fail to follow the logic that would deem all the surface infrastructure, additional traffic, noise and other disturbance and pipeline damage to these specially designated environments to be unjustifiable at one depth because of the harm they would inevitably cause, but deem that same harm to be perfectly justifiable at another depth.”

Most of Sussex’s shale reserves are found deep underground, well below the 1,200m restriction. It has also only been found in the form of oil and not the more lucrative gas, which brings into question the economic benefits of drilling in the county at all. The CPRE makes this appeal to the Minister,

"We urge you to amend the draft regulation to ban outright fracking for oil beneath the Wealden basin."

Sussex has one of the highest percentages of protected areas in the country. More than half of West Sussex falls into this category, with large areas designated as National Park or AONB.

If the new legislation becomes law then drilling would be allowed anywhere under these much loved beauty spots, and although the regulations are still in a draft form, The Secretary of State is already taking measures which could fast track fracking planning applications across the county.

Read the letter CPRE Sussex have sent to Sussex MPs


Front page photo from Firle Beacon © Urban_Mongoose

Above: Buzzards in South Downs National Park © Photography

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