140 Yorkshire heritage spots covered by fracking exploration licences

Fens, woodland and marshland as well as dozens of much loved Yorkshire beauty spots now fall under shale gas exploration licences.

New research undertaken by the independent House of Commons library and Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh show that one sixth of Yorkshire’s protected landscape, including 140 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), are now covered by Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences.

These include The Ings fenland in Rydedale, Tadcaster Mere, Fordon Chalk Grasslands in North Yorkshire and Maltby Low Common and Roche Abbey Woodlands in South Yorkshire.

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However the Government's Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom has said while the licence areas cover a 100 km sq block, in reality, drill workings are the size of two football pitches, and it is against the law to drill on the surface of a protected landscape.

Permission to frack also has to be passed by the Environment Agency and local authority, and the Health and Safety Executive.

Labour MP Louise Haigh said: “That one sixth of our beloved and protected areas and 140 of our scientifically significant sites would sit within land set aside for fracking reveals how close to the wind the Government are sailing in their dash for gas.”

“Yorkshire is completely unsuited and this analysis reveals it would be a big mistake to frack here.”

“By granting fracking licences in areas supposed to be set aside for people to roam, enjoy, exercise and study, people across Yorkshire will rightly feel that the Government are auctioning off our ‘jewels in the crown’ in a dash for gas without considering the consequences.”

'Revoke licences'

With rock deep beneath fenland, marsh, grasslands and woodlands across the region all covered by the licences, Ms Haigh now wants the Government to revoke all licences on, under or close to protected areas.

Current legislation means fracking can take place at depths of below 1200m under national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and SSSIs. No drilling is allowed at the surface, and around 8000ft of solid mud-rock separates the natural gas of the Bowland shale and the layer of Corallian Limestone, which provides much of Yorkshire's public water supply through its aquifer.

Exploratory licences now cover 533 square kilometres of protected land - around 14% of all of Yorkshire's beauty spots, however not all will lead to fracking applications being lodged.

On protected land all preparatory work is done with instruments on the surface which visualise geological formations below.

Fracking company Ineos, which was awarded several licence blocks in Yorkshire before Christmas, is concentrating its efforts to the south of the Vale of Pickering and while it also has a block in covering the national park, it doesn't presently have any plans for the area.

Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said Ms Haigh's claims gave the wrong impression of potential fracking sites in the UK.

She said: “These claims are completely misleading. We have been very clear that fracking will not be allowed to take place within protected areas, including national parks and sites of special scientific interest.

“This industry, rooted at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse, has the potential to create jobs and boost our energy security by reducing our reliance on imported gas.

"And this huge potential is why we are taking our environmental responsibilities very seriously and protecting our most precious natural area."

Full list of protected areas covered by Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences in Yorkshire.

NP - National Park AONB - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty SSSI - Site of Special Scientific Interest

The North York Moors (NP)

The Peak District (NP)

Howardian Hills (AONB)

Riveaulx Woods (SSSI within NP)

Duncombe Park (SSSI within NP)

Castle Hill Deer Park and Windy Pits (SSSI within NP)

Bainksey Bank Spring (SSSI within NP)

Sleightholme Dale (SSSI within NP)

Tipsdale (SSSI within NP)

Hill House Nab (SSSI within NP)

Bull Ings (SSSI within NP)

Cropton Banks and Howlgate Head Woods (SSSI within NP)

Newbridge Quarry (SSSI)

Ellers Wood and Sandale (SSSI within NP)

Ellerburn Bank (SSSI within NP)

Seive Dale Fen (SSSI within NP)

Troutsdale and Rosekirk Dale Fens (SSSI within NP)

Hackness Head Quarry (SSSI within NP)

Ruston Cottage Pasture (SSSI)

Cockrah Wood (SSSI)

Spiker’s Hill Quarry (SSSI)

Green Lane Pit (SSSI)

Golden Hill Pit (SSSI)

Kirkdale Cave (SSSI within NP)

Snaper Farm Meadow (SSSI within NP)

Fairy Call Beck (SSSI within NP)

Flanborough Head Heritage Coast (SSI) (small section only)

Strensall Common (SSI) – open heathland

Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows (SSI) – protected species

Askham Bog (SSSI) – biological importance

Tadcaster Mere (SSsI) – nationally important geological conservation area

Kirkby Wharfe (SSSI) – marshland

Bolton Percy Ings (SSSI) – flood meadows

The Ings Amotherby (SSSI) – fen meadow

Horsfield Grilling (SSSI)

Wath Quarry (SSSI)

Dalby Bush Fen (SSSI)

Nunnington Cuttings and Quarry (SSSI)

Golden Hill Pit (SSSI)

River Derwent (SSSI)

Wintringham Marsh (SSSI)

East Heslerton Brow (SSSI)

Ladyhills (SSSI)

Fordon Chalk Grasslands (SSSI)

Hayburn Wyke (SSSI) Iron Scar and Hundale Point to Scalby Ness (SSSI)

North Bay to South Toll House Cliffe (SSSI)

Cayton, Cornelian and South Bays (SSSI)

Filey Brigg (SSSI)

Fordon Chalk Grasslands (SSSI)

Hoddy Cows Spring (SSSI)

Flamborough Head (SSSI)

Boynton Willow Garth (SSSI)

Spell Howe Plantation (SSSI)

Rancliffe and Forge Valley Woods (SSSI)

Sked Dale (SSSI)

Cottom Well Dale (SSSI)

Clinquefoil Brow and Wood Dale (SSSI)

River Hull Headwaters (SSSI)

Skipsea Bail Mere (SSSI)

Withow Gap (SSSI)

Hornsea Mere (SSSI)

Lambwath Meadows (SSSI)

Dimlington Cliff (SSSI)

Roos Bog (SSSI)

Kelsey Hill Gravel (SSSI)

Leven Canal (SSSI)

Tophill Low (SSSI)

Bryan Mills Field (SSSI)

Burton Brushes (SSSI)

Melton Bottom Chalk Pit (SSSI)

Brantingham Dale (SSSI)

Everthorpe Quarry (SSSI)

Drewton Lane Pits (SSSI)

Wyedale (SSSI)

Newbald Becksies (SSSI) White Carr Meadow (SSSI)

Melbourne and Thornton Ings (SSSI)

Pocklington Canal (SSSI)

Allethorpe Common (SSSI)

Newton Mask (SSSI)

Derwent Ings (SSSI) Breighton Meadows (SSSI)

Barn Hill Meadows (SSSI)

South Ferriby Chalk Pit (SSSI)

Tetney Blow Wells (SSSI)

South Ferriby Chalk Pit (SSSI)

Kirmington Pits (SSSI)

Wrawby Moor (SSSI)

Broughton Alder Wood (SSSI)

Broughton Far Wood (SSSI)

Castethorpe Tupas (SSSI)

Risby Warren (SSSI)

Conesby Quarry (SSSI)

Eastoft Meadow (SSSI)

Thorne, Crowle and Goole Moors (SSSI)

Crowle Barrow Pits (SSSI)

Hatfield Moors (SSSI)

Belshaw (SSSI)

Epworth Turbury (SSSI)

Hatfield Chase Ditches (SSSI)

Haxey Turbury (SSSI)

Went Ings Meadows (SSSI)

Sandall Beat (SSSI)

Potteric Carr (SSSI)

River Idle Washlands (SSSI)

Styrrup Quarry (SSSI)

Edlington Wood (SSSI) New Edlington Brickpit (SSSI)

Ashfield Brick Pits (SSSI)

Sprotbrough Gorge (SSSI)

Denaby Ings (SSSI)

Cadebury Quarry (SSSI)

Maltby Low Common (SSSI)

Roche Abbey Woodlands (SSSI)

Wood Lea Common (SSSI)

Lindrick Golf Course (SSSI)

Anston Stones Wood (SSSI)

Shirley Pool (SSSI) Owston Hay Meadows (SSSI) Forlorn Hope Meadow (SSSI)

Brockadale (SSSI)

Wentbridge Ings (SSSI)

South Elmsall Quarry (SSSI)

Nostall Brickyard Quarry (SSSI)

Fairburn and Newton Ings (SSSI)

Mickletown Ings (SSSI)

Madbanks and Ledsham Banks (SSSI)

Nostell Brickyard Quarry (SSSI)

Carlton Main Brickworks (SSSI)

Bilham Sand Pits (SSSI)

Stairfoot Brickworks (SSSI)

Seckar Wood (SSSI)

Wharmcliffe Crags (SSSI)

Wadsley Fossil Forest (SSSI)

Stannington Ruffs (SSSI)

Neepsend Brickworks (SSSI)

Neepsend Railway Cutting (SSSI)

Totley Wood (SSSI)

Moss Valley Meadows (SSSI)

Moss Valley (SSSI)

Eastern Peak District Moors (SSSI)

Canyards Hills (SSSI)

Little Don Stream Section (SSSI)