Fears over ‘fracking’ on wildlife sites

Allerthorpe Common is within a licensing area. Picture courtesy of Neil Aldridge.
Allerthorpe Common is within a licensing area. Picture courtesy of Neil Aldridge.

A conservation charity fears that precious wildlife sites in the area could be damaged by fracking.

The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust says that the sites – along with dozens of others that it looks after – need to be protected from fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing.

The Trust says that earlier this year the UK Government promised to exclude protected areas from fracking, but in recent months a U-turn on this commitment has placed some of the country’s most sensitive and precious wildlife sites at risk.

In August this year, Government announced 27 new licence areas for shale gas exploration and extraction. A further 132 licences are expected to be announced before the end of 2015. Collectively, these 159 licence areas include 293 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and 188 Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves across England – all of which could now be at risk from fracking.

Under current proposals 31 Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserves are within licence areas and an additional 35 nature reserves are within 500 metres of another area awaiting further assessment. The Trust is very concerned that 91 Sites of Special Scientific Interest across Yorkshire could also be affected by shale gas exploration.

One reserve within a potential licensing area is Allerthorpe Common. Sites of Special Scientific Interest within or intersecting with licensing areas or potential licencing areas include Allerthorpe Common, Pocklington Canal, Bishop Wilton Deep Dale, Bishop Wilton Poor Land, Derwent Ings, Melbourne and Thornton Ings, Millington Wood and Pastures, Keasey Dale in Warter and the River Derwent. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s chief executive Rob Stoneman said: “We simply cannot allow the provision of licenses awarded to oil and gas exploration companies for shale gas extraction to threaten what has taken decades of work to protect. The Government must uphold their commitment not to use hydraulic fracturing on sites protected for wildlife.

“We are deeply concerned that shale gas extraction is an untried technology in the UK, where the effects on hydrology and the geology of oil shale may be very different to the US, where there has been major development of the technology. Allowing this activity could have disastrous impacts on European Protected Sites, European Protected Species, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and locally designated sites. Once the damage is done there will be no rescue package, we could lose everything.”

The 8 October edition of the Post featured an article explaining that swathes of land throughout the Pocklington and Market Weighton areas are to be assessed for the exploration and extraction of shale gas.

A number of ‘blocks’ throughout the local area and other parts of East Yorkshire could be opened to developers, depending on the outcome of Habitats Regulations Assessments.