Thursday, 23 July 2015

Government U-turns on promise to protect heritage wildlife reserves from fracking

Map of Cuadrilla's Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence 
for the region of Lancashire (PEDL165)

Philip Mitchell of North Lancs Green Party reports to Virtual Lancaster that, despite an earlier commitment to do the very opposite, the government is now in the process of removing protection from Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), our most important nature sites.

Winmarleigh Moss, an SSSI just north west of Garstang, is  Lancashire’s largest mossland, a raised peat bog that is home to a wide range of rare wildlife and a fantastic, natural, self-maintaining store that safeguards thousands of tonnes of carbon.

It falls within fracking company Cuadrilla's licensing area for Lancashire. (See current DECC fields and licences maps)

As the national Guardian reported last week:
'Amber Rudd, the energy secretary, told MPs in January: “We have agreed an outright ban on fracking in National Parks [and] Sites of Special Scientific Interest”.

'But the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), which laid draft regulations in parliament on Thursday covering which areas fracking would be excluded from, has confirmed that exploration for shale gas will no longer be prevented in SSSIs.'

The draft regulations, which will be debated in parliament in September, also say that fracking would be allowed under protected groundwater source areas, where drinking water is gathered.

The DECC have argued that these areas, as well as National Parks, cannot be ruled out because, 'The number of them would have an adverse effect on the development of the shale gas industry.'

Philip writes:

Dear Editor

People in Lancashire need to be aware that the Government has recently done a U-turn on its promise to exclude fracking from Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), our most important nature sites. This shows that this Government simply cannot be trusted to protect our countryside.

Lancashire County Council’s recent planning decision to reject fracking applications on two sites in Lancashire, were based on recognisable threats to local neighbourhoods such as heavy traffic, visual impact, noise pollution and uncertainties about the ecological impacts of shale gas extraction.

Common Lizard at Winmarleigh Moss
Now however, some of our most important wildlife sites such as Winmarleigh Moss, an SSSI north west of Garstang, could be at risk from fracking and the related issues such as water stress, disturbance, and habitat fragmentation that comes from multiple gas well pads being sprawled over large areas of our countryside.

Winmarleigh Moss is within Cuadrilla's licence area, and is home to a number of rare species, including the unfortunately named Common Lizard.

Our political representatives must put our countryside heritage before developers' profits; otherwise it will be lost forever.

Philip Mitchell
Wyre Area co-ordinator,
North Lancs Green Party
Carr Lane
Hambleton FY6 9BA

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