The North York Moors National Park – under threat from fracking companies

What is this consultation about?

The North York Moors National Park is consulting on their future plans for the park, in a consultation entitled ‘A Sense of Tranquillity, A strong feeling of Remoteness and Dark Night Skies’, and you can read their introduction to the consultation here. The Consultation Paper itself can be found here. THE DEADLINE IS FRIDAY 26th JANUARY … so keep reading!

So what’s this got to do with fracking?

Quite a lot, actually. If the oil and gas industry have their way, the tranquillity and dark night skies of the North York Moors National Park will be a distant memory. Areas of the Park have already been licensed to various oil and gas companies, who own the mineral rights to what’s underneath these beautiful, heather-filled lands. And it’s clear that they have their sights on the shale rock deep underground.

But isn’t fracking banned in National Parks?

Well, yes and no. The Infrastructure Act (2015) does not allow fracking rigs to be established on the surface of National Parks. But this Act also includes a very narrow definition of fracking, which it defines as any unconventional gas production in shale rock that uses more than 1,000 m3 of fluid. So if the company used, say, 950 m3 of fluid, hey presto, it’s not ‘fracking’ and therefore not covered by the government’s ‘ban’.

Hmm, that seems somewhat random.

Indeed. And there’s more. While companies can’t establish fracking well-sites in the Park itself, they are allowed to put them around the edges of the park and drill underneath them, using horizontal wells. This is exactly what multinational petrochemicals company INEOS are planning to do all along the southern edge of the park, as announced in the Times on New Year’s Eve.

So how do we respond to the consultation?

Simply write an email to this address by Friday 26th January. Please make sure you include your name and full address, and also say why the North York Moors National Park is important to you. You may be a resident of the park, or visit the park at weekends, or go there on holiday, or simply want to protect the few places in the UK that are Protected Areas.

What can I say in the consultation?

Here are some points you can make about fracking and the possible industrialisation of the National Park.

* Fracking (and oil and gas production in general) would have a severely detrimental effect of the tranquillity of the Park.

* All fracking should be banned in the National Park, as the impact on the countryside, tranquillity and environment is the same, whatever the volume of liquid used in each frack.

* Fracking would also bring with it heavy industrialisation of the area, as each fracking well-site would require huge numbers of HGV movements, supporting infrastructure such as gas processing plants and compressor stations.

* No fracking should be allowed around the edges and underneath the park, as this would still have a huge impact on the tranquillity of the areas of the park near its borders, due to the noise of drilling and fracking, which often takes place day and night, and the noise of HGV trucks driving to and from the sites.

* Fracking would also have a major impact on the Park’s worldwide reputation as one of our best locations for Dark Skies. Fracking and drilling take place day and night, which would require the sites to be lit by a large number of industrial lights that can be seen for miles.

Fancy this happening in your National Park?

* There is also likely to flaring (which is burning off of excess gas) at fracking well-sites, which would again light up the sky and have a severely detrimental impact on the night sky.

* You can also say that you fully support the North York Moor National Park Authority’s position in the Mineral and Waste Joint Plan to impose a 3.5km buffer zone around the park to prevent this ‘drilling by stealth’ under the park. For more on the Minerals and Waste Joint Plan, click here.

Is there anything else I should comment on?

The consultation is also suggesting that the Park Authority puts in place a Tranquillity Policy, which would state that all development proposals would be assessed in relation to their impact on tranquillity and the criteria to be considered would be listed, for instance, visual intrusion, noise, activity levels, traffic generation. You can comment on whether you agree with this, giving reasons. Again, please refer to the Consultation Paper for more information.

Right, I’m going to do that now. Anything else?

Please pass this briefing on to everyone you know who loves the North York Moors National Park and does not want to see it destroyed by the heavy industrialisation that fracking will inevitably bring.

Thanks for helping! And if you want to get up to speed on the Minerals and Waste Joint Plan, which will guide planning policy in the National Park for the next 15 years, click here.