North York Moors Local Plan – Please respond

256px-north_york_moors_national_park1What’s this consultation about?

This is a plan for the future of the North York Moors National Park, which is probably one of the most beautiful and important national parks in the UK. This particular consultation is entitled First Steps, as it is the beginning of a process that will result in a new Local Plan that will guide the way the National Park is used until 2035. So, as you can imagine, this really is rather important, particularly as the North York Moors National Park has been identified by the ReFine research team at Durham University as one of only four National Parks in the UK that are suitable for widespread fracking – see their report here.

When’s the deadline?

Responses need to be submitted by 5.00 pm on Friday 18th November.

Do you have to live in the National Park to respond?

No you don’t, although we would certainly encourage everyone who does live within the park boundaries to respond in as much detail as they can. However, anyone can respond to the survey, including people who live near the park, or visit the park for recreational or sporting purposes, or simply support the idea of protecting our National Parks.

north-york-moors_2294122b11What sort of things are under discussion?

The following explanation is taken from the North York Moors website.

“At this stage we’d like to know what you think about the North York Moors National Park generally – what you value about it, what needs improvement, and what you think the key issues are. We’d also like to know what your views are on our current planning policies and whether they are working.

A ‘First Steps’ document has been prepared to help seek views. It is split into two parts:

  • Part 1 is the ‘Community Aspirations Survey’. This includes ten general questions about planning in the National Park and what people’s aspirations are for the future of the place where they live and work. It is particularly aimed at Parish and Town Councils and Meetings and local residents and businesses.
  • Part 2 is a ‘Main Issues Questionnaire’. This includes twenty more specific questions about the main issues which the new Local Plan may need to tackle.  It is aimed at everyone, but particularly people with an interest in the specific contents of the plan or anyone who regularly looks at local plans.”

map-with-overview1Thirty questions?! Do you have to answer them all?

No, you only need to answer the questions that you feel are relevant to you (see guidance on this below). For example, if you live in the National Park, there are probably more questions that you want to answer than if you visit the Park from time to time.

How do I access this consultation document?

The easiest way is to respond online via these two SurveyMonkey links:

If you live or work in the park, please fill in The Community Aspirations Survey. This is also applicable to Town and Parish Councils, and other bodies that are situated within the park’s borders. The key questions from a fracking point of view seems to be Q3, Q9 and Q10, although of course please fill in as many questions as you like. For points you can make, please see below.

Everyone – including people who live or work in the park – should fill in The Main Issues Questionnaire, So, if you live near the park, visit the park for recreational purposes, or are simply a supporter of National Parks in general, this is the questionnaire for you. The key questions from a fracking point of view seem to be M1, M2, M3, M4 and M20, but again, please feel free to fill in any questions you wish to.

If you aren’t able to fill in the form online, you can also access the full document – which you can print out and fill in your answers – by clicking here. The address to post your completed forn to is at the end of the document.

Alternatively, you can make general comments by emailing the North York Moors Park Authority at policy@northyorkmoors.org.uk.

Fracking well-pads - coming to a tourist destination near you?

Fracking well-pads – coming to a tourist destination near you?

What is the current situation with fracking in National Parks?

In June 2016 the government has said it would not allow fracking from wells drilled at the surface of a range of protected areas (including National Parks, AONBs and SSSIs). However, it has refused to introduce legislation to enshrine this in law.

The current situation is that for Petroleum Exploration Development Licences (PEDLs) issued in the 14th round – which was December 2015 – there is a condition in the contract with the company preventing hydraulic fracturing from new or existing wells in specified protected areas. (However, the wording of this clause has not been made public and we have yet to see it, despite many requests for the text).

For PEDL licences granted in earlier licensing rounds, the government has merely issued a policy statement saying that the Secretary of State was “not minded” to approve hydraulic fracturing proposals in protected areas. As you can see, this is not exactly the same as banning fracking in protected areas such as National Parks through primary legislation, and opens up the possibility that this could change at the government’s whim in the future. As we have seen recently in Lancashire, the fairness of Secretaries of State cannot be relied upon …

You can find out more information on the current situation of fracking in protected areas in this Drill or Drop report.

untitled 2What about fracking around the edge of National Parks? Is that allowed?

That’s a very good point. Fracking is currently not allowed in National Parks – see above – but it is allowed under National Parks. So, you could end up with lots of fracking well-pads around the perimeter of the park, with horizontal wells going directly under the park. This would, of course, be extremely damaging to the park, as it would create light, noise and air pollution that would impact the park, as well as the usual concerns about water pollution, truck movements, climate change, etc.

You can read more about this on Drill or Drop, and the legislation that allows this is available here.
There is also a good report on this in The Guardian.

What about conventional gas production?

Currently conventional oil and gas production is allowed in national parks, and there are already some developments within the North York Moors National Park, such as Third Energy’s well-site at Ebberston Moor. However, these are also a threat to the environment, particularly when they re-inject millions of gallons of radioactive waste water back into the ground, as is the case at Ebberston Moor.

So what should I say in my response to the consultation?

We suggest you make some or all of the following points, in your own words.

The North York Moors Park Authority should demand that the government bring forward primary legislation to ban fracking permanently in all PEDL licence areas in the National Park.

Fracking should not be allowed under the North York Moors National Park from fracking well-sites that are established just outside its borders. Currently this is allowed, and such operations would impact heavily on the park itself, due to the amount of noise pollution, air pollution, traffic in and around the park, impact on wildlife (including protected species), possible threat to groundwater, the possibility of surface spills and many other impacts that may result from fracking. Noise and light pollution at night would particularly impact on nocturnal species, such as owls and bats, which should enjoy protection in the National Park. You can also mention any other issues and problems you associate with fracking here, such as climate change, increased truck movements, etc.

There should also be a minimum 5 mile buffer zone around the North York Moors National Park – and all other protected areas – in which fracking rigs and well-sites are banned. This would help to prevent the impacts of fracking (see above) from the National Park itself.

Fracking in or near the National Park would have a grave impact on the tourism industry, upon which many people who live and work in the park depend. Tourism provides more permanent jobs than fracking could ever hope to, and supports a wide variety of recreational and cultural activities in the park.

Fracking would also have a huge impact on the farming industry within the park. Potential air and water contamination issues associated with shale gas production threatening the reputation of the local produce, and the large number of jobs that the agricultural sector supports.

Conventional gas production should also be banned from National Parks. While this practice is not as dangerous for the environment as fracking, the National Park is not an appropriate location for hydrocarbons production, as this can also cause problems with noise, traffic, air pollution, impact on wildlife and many other issues.

Re-injecting waste water from conventional gas production back into the ground should also be banned – particularly when it is re-injected into a strata different from the producing layer. This new and untried process in the UK has not been proven to be safe and is a threat to water supplies. For example, the re-injection that has been approved at Ebberston Moor will re-inject millions of gallons of toxic waste water back under the ground, through the aquifer that serves Scarborough and surrounding areas.

Please make any other points you would like to about the National Park in general, its importance as a protected area, and the threat that fracking in or near the park poses for its residents, wildlife, farming and the tourist industry upon which it depends.

Thanks very much for doing this – and there’s new about the very important Minerals and Waste Joint Plan consultation coming soon! Bet you can’t wait!

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