Government’s fracking commitment welcomed by South Downs Society

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A government commitment to keep fracking out of the country’s national parks has been welcomed by the official “Friends” organisation for the South Downs National Park, the South Downs Society.

In Monday’s parliamentary debate on the Infrastructure Bill, Energy Minister Amber Rudd told MPs that an existing loophole allowing “unconventional” drilling for shale oil and gas in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and sites of special scientific interest in “exceptional circumstances” would be closed.

The announcement follows widespread opposition to fracking from both national environmental organisations and local communities.

South Downs Society Policy Officer Steve Ankers said: “This is good news for our most treasured landscapes and follows a lot of hard work by groups like ours across the country. Politicians have listened to the justified concerns of their constituents and this shows what can be achieved when people speak out.

“The South Downs National Park Authority took a strong line last year in refusing planning permission for oil and gas exploration before it could even get to the extraction stage.

“We and others warmly welcomed that decision at the time and it looks like MPs took notice. There are a lot of environmental unknowns with fracking, in addition to its inevitable contribution to climate change, and government needs to think very hard about its unquestioning support in the rest of the countryside – but at least the ban in national parks announced on Monday is a positive step.”