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Are we fit to frack?

The chalk stream and bridge in winter, Hughenden estate, Buckinghamshire
The chalk stream and bridge in winter, Hughenden estate, Buckinghamshire | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

Fracking in the UK could have a major impact on our landscape and wildlife. We’ve joined other leading countryside groups to call for our most sensitive landscapes to become frack-free zones, and for improved regulation of shale gas.

The Fit to Frack report

In 2014 we were part of a new report called ‘Are We Fit to Frack?’, developed with the Angling Trust, RSPB, the Salmon & Trout Association (now Salmon & Trout Conservation), The Wildlife Trusts and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. We set out ten recommendations for Government to make fracking safer.

The recommendations were based on a full technical evidence report, which was peer reviewed by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, one of the UK’s leading ecological research institutes. It was supported by a cross-party group of MPs, including Zac Goldsmith, Alan Whitehead and Tessa Munt.

Read the full Fit to Frack report (PDF)

Read the Fit to Frack report summary (PDF)

We called for:

  • All protected wildlife areas, nature reserves and national parks to be frack-free zones.

  • Full environmental assessments to be carried out for each drilling proposal.

  • The shale gas industry to pay the costs of its regulation and any pollution clean-ups.

Barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus)
Barbastelle bats, a threatened species that could be seriously affected by fracking | © National Trust Images/Bat Conservation Trust/Hugh Clark

Serious concerns for nature

The report highlighted a lack of regulation around shale gas exploitation, which could cause serious impacts for a range of threatened species including pink-footed geese, salmon and barbastelle bats.

It also raised serious concerns about the impact of drilling and water contamination on some of our most precious natural habitats, such as chalk streams. These crystal-clear waterways are known to anglers and wildlife-lovers as England’s coral reefs – 85 per cent of the world’s chalk streams are found here.

Our view on the report

The debate on fracking needs to be evidence-based. The evidence from this detailed research clearly revealed that the regulation of shale gas needed to be improved if it were to offer adequate protection for sensitive environments.

Fracking in the UK has been paused since 2019, but escalating global fuel prices have since brought the process back under consideration. The Government should rule out fracking in the most sensitive areas and ensure that regulations offer sufficient protection to our treasured natural and historic environment.

National Trust staff member adjusting pipes on the green energy system at Hardcastle Crags, Yorkshire
The green energy system at Gibson Mill, Hardcastle Crags | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

The report’s recommendations

  1. Avoid sensitive areas for wildlife and water resources by creating shale gas extraction exclusion zones.
  2. Make Environmental Impact Assessments mandatory for shale gas extraction proposals.
  3. Require shale extraction companies to pay for a world-class regulatory regime.
  4. Prevent taxpayers from bearing the costs of accidental pollution.
  5. Make water companies statutory consultees in the planning process.
  6. Require all hydraulic fracturing operations to operate under a Groundwater Permit.
  7. Make sure the Best Available Techniques for mine waste management are rigorously defined and regularly reviewed.
  8. Ensure full transparency of the shale gas industry and its environmental impact.
  9. Ensure monitoring and testing of shale gas operations is rigorous and independent.
  10. Minimise and monitor methane emissions.
Low view of daffodils and scillas colouring the ground that surrounds trees at Waddesdon, Oxfordshire

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