Allow fracking in national parks, says EA chief

Chris Smith says anti-fracking campaigners’ environmental fears are ‘definitely exaggerated’

LAST UPDATED AT 07:31 ON Sat 28 Jun 2014

Fracking should be allowed in national parks, says the outgoing chairman of the Environment Agency.

Dismissing the concerns of campaigners over the impact of drilling at such sites, Chris Smith said: “Provided it is done carefully and properly regulated, those fears are definitely exaggerated”.

He argued that fracking could be “very useful” in helping the UK to reduce its reliance on dirty coal-fired power stations and imported fuel in the years and decades to come.

On the contentious prospect of fracking in national parks, he said: “I wouldn’t rule it out because provided it’s being done properly, the visual impact can be very limited indeed. It will depend on any individual location.”

The first national park fracking could take place in Sussex. The South Downs National Park Authority is considering an application by Celtique Energie to drill an exploratory shale well near Fernhurst, in West Sussex.

If the application is granted it could lead to other national parks being targeted by fracking companies. Among the locations being eyed up are North York Moors, the Peak District, Brecon Beacons, New Forest, Yorkshire Dales and Lake District.

Campaigners say the government is preparing to “auction off” national parks. More than 45,000 people around the country have joined legal moves to use trespass laws to block energy companies from fracking under their properties. · 

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