Thursday 17 December 2015
The Chilterns Conservation Board believes the Government is ignoring its statutory duty to protect AONBs by allowing fracking to take place underneath them.
In a response to a recent Government consultation on restricting surface development related to fracking in protected areas, the Board stated that there should be no hydraulic fracking in, under or near Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Lucy Murfett, the Board's Planning Officer, said in the response: "Furthermore these current proposals do not consider impacts on AONBs of proposals which fall outside an AONB but within its ‘setting’ (e.g. visually harmful infrastructure adjacent to AONBs, or schemes that could contaminate groundwater or harm watercourses in an AONB). This is contrary to the statutory duty on ministers and all public bodies under Section 85 of the Countryside & Rights of Way Act (2000) that: 'In exercising or performing any functions in relation to, or so as to affect, land in an area of outstanding natural beauty, a relevant authority shall have regard to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area of outstanding natural beauty.'"
The Board believes the rules voted through by MPs yesterday provide only weak protection for AONBs, National Parks and other protected areas. They do not restrict ugly surface development immediately adjacent to AONBs, which would spoil the setting of these lovely landscapes. The rules also allow horizontal drilling underneath AONBs from outside their boundaries, which could lead to contamination of groundwater with resulting negative impacts on waterbodies including rare and sensitive ones like chalk streams.