‘Giving fracking the green light is a hideous mistake’: CPRE reacts to PM

'To get any meaningful amount of gas from the ground would require wholesale devastation of the countryside'

CPRE has slated the new Prime Minister’s announcement that she will reverse the UK ban on fracking.

Liz Truss confirmed her commitment to ending the moratorium on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, this week when revealing her plans to tackle rising energy bills.

The news sparked incredulity in many quarters, including at CPRE, the countryside charity.

Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy, said: “Giving fracking the green light is a hideous mistake. If the purpose is to tackle bank-busting gas prices, it’s an exercise in futility.

“Even if we were to go full steam ahead on fracking, which nobody wants, least of all rural communities, it wouldn’t make a dent on the cost of energy anytime soon, or ever.

“Any move to industrialise the countryside and belch yet more fumes into our carbon-soaked atmosphere will prompt a furious response from local communities, drawn-out planning delays and nationwide protests. Hardly a proposal to keep families warm this winter, or lower bills in the future.

“The new Chancellor got it right in March, when he said fracking ‘would take up to a decade to extract sufficient volumes — and it would come at a high cost for communities and our precious countryside’. Nothing has changed.

“Proposals to offer local people discounts on their bills in exchange for environmental destruction on their doorsteps need to be seen for what they are – a feeble attempt to bribe vulnerable rural communities to accept an unpopular, unsafe and polluting process that will destroy their tranquility.

“Local communities need to make their voices heard loud and clear – they were right to resist before and should continue to do so.

“The answer to the fossil-fuel price crisis is to reduce usage with a mass insulation drive, alongside a clean-energy sprint. There has never been a better time to transform our energy infrastructure to ensure a future of abundant green power.

“Renewables are around nine times cheaper and far quicker to plug in than any alternative. Families facing the biggest drop in living standards on record need renewable energy to become the central pillar of a modernised energy system. And they need it to happen fast.”

Highlighting how fracking would impact rural communities up and down the country, Mr Fyans said: “The brutal reality of fracking is that to get any meaningful amount of gas from the ground would require wholesale devastation of the countryside.

“The numbers are horrifying. Previous research has shown we’d need 6,100 fracking sites – that’s one new site a day for 15 years – to replace half the gas we currently import. That would require approximately 3,500 hectares of land, or around 4,900 football pitches.

“That’s why, leaving aside any environmental concerns, fracking is the least popular and least effective way of enhancing energy security. The reason it was banned is because people wanted it banned.

“Allowing fracking in the two southern Jurassic areas, in particular, would be likely to have major visual and polluting impacts on some of our most valuable countryside and coastline, particularly the Jurassic Coast and the South Downs National Park. Similar damage in the northern area would directly impact the Peak District National Park.

“Shale-gas deposits in the UK are located under major population centres. Huge swathes of the North West and Yorkshire and large south coast resorts and ports, primarily in Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset, would be directly in the firing line.”