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These blogs have been written by members of the High Weald AONB Unit staff.  You can find out more about these staff by visiting the AONB team page.

New measures will not 'protect' AONBs from 'Fracking'

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How disappointing, yet completely expected that the Government should allow a huge expansion of ‘fracking’ licences, and with only the flimsiest of safeguards in place for England’s finest landscapes.

The additional ‘protection’ for National Parks and AONBs explained in Planning Practice Guidance appears to be a restatement of the major development test already part of the National Planning Policy Framework (Para 116). This test has a long history, originally as the 'Silkin test', and if applied correctly is sound. In theory it should prevent damaging development in our finest landscapes, and on many occasions it has, but it is only as effective as the people who apply it. The test requires a balancing of need over harm, in this case the national 'need' for oil and gas over potential damage to our most beautiful and nationally important landscapes. Who makes this judgement, the evidence they bring to bear and the decision making process they follow matters. Currently there is no definition of 'major development'. No independent body is charged with scrutinizing the environmental statements produced by oil and gas companies. Without confidence in these processes the claim made by Matthew Hancock, the business and energy minister, that the new measures will protect Britain’s great national parks and AONBs, rings hollow.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if instead we heard from a government minister -  ‘We can no longer delay the policy and structural changes needed to address global food, water and energy crises (If you are in any doubt read this summary of recent research by a team of natural and social scientists). We will therefore leave unconventional hydrocarbons in the ground. Our finest landscapes, treasured by people as places to live, work and visit will be at the forefront of moves to secure modern sustainable rural communities fostering innovation and enterprise, and powered by renewable resources.'

 

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