Jules Marley: Fracking will be kiss of death for rural Yorkshire, and not a magic wand for the economy

THE fracking campaigner Lorraine Allanson wrote a column in The Yorkshire Post recently arguing that the industry would be a kiss of life for communities in the affected area.

It was a brave stance in the face of such public opposition to fracking. CPRE North Yorkshire trustees know only too well that each time you stick your head above the parapet on a contentious issue, the letter writers start and this is usually accompanied by personal abuse!

We don’t intend to abuse anyone. We’re all entitled to an opinion.

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We do agree that rural North Yorkshire needs to be kept alive and thriving. This is why we campaign and why our charity continues to work above and beyond to achieve this.

The CPRE is campaigning against fracking in Ryedale.The CPRE is campaigning against fracking in Ryedale.
The CPRE is campaigning against fracking in Ryedale.

However fracking is not a magic wand to be waved to achieve this.

Ms Allanson writes: “Our dying rural economy is crying out to be resuscitated by fracking. The shale gas kiss of life would bring investment, jobs and money into host communities.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

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Rural businesses (and the clue is in the word rural) tend to focus on tourism, farming and agri-businesses, together with a large smattering of small businesses operated from home. Industrialised sites do not reflect, nor can they enhance and protect, rural North Yorkshire.

We believe that fracking will be the kiss of death to many existing rural businesses and no amount of resuscitation will revive affected rural communities.

Our agricultural and agri-tourism industries need the incredible North Yorkshire countryside – they depend upon it.

Tourists flock here from all around the world to marvel at the North York Moors, the heritage coastline, the Yorkshire Dales, our three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, our beautiful market towns and historic cities.

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Quite simply, there just isn’t enough room to manage everything to ensure the viability of existing rural business, build affordable homes, provide food and protect, enhance our valued and valuable countryside and gobble up land for fracking (as well as the inevitable mass of “executive” homes we are faced with). It just won’t all fit.

It’s not just the land at the fracking sites that’s affected. It is also the countryside and road networks around these sites that will suffer.

Most of our countryside lanes, bordered by dry stone walls or ancient hedgerows, were designed for the horse and cart.

We’ve enough problems managing cars and caravans and even the influx of cyclists. When you add multiple (and let’s get it straight – hundreds of) large HGVs into the mix, chaos and mayhem occurs.

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There’s also the public perception of fracking and ‘contamination by association’ to consider.

Would you holiday next to a fracking site?

Would you take your children to a place where road safety is compromised by multiple HGVs?

Would you risk buying milk from a dairy farmer who farms next to a fracking site, ‘just in case’ there has been some accidental discharge into soils which has worked its way through to adjacent agricultural fields?

These are all potential scenarios we’ve heard time and time again from concerned members of the public.

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With regard to food production, advertising will never change to say “grown in Yorkshire with pride next to a fracking site”. If it did, would you buy?

Regardless of the countless arguments about fracking below ground, we concentrate on the impact above ground. We’re a countryside charity, not scientists or engineers. Above ground, it is negative for food, farming and tourism. It is negative for quality and enjoyment of life.

Everyone accepts we need more sustainable energy, but what are we doing about managing the energy we have?

We’re told to recycle everything from paper to old phones and yet housebuilding still ramps on without super-insulation (in the majority of cases) to make the best of what we have.

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So what is the point of providing more energy that will simply disappear through poorly-insulated homes? We need to eliminate waste first – all waste. We need to value the businesses we have now, the countryside we have now.

Fracking is being thrust upon the county by people from outside. It’s no wonder the words ‘The Yorkshire Sacrifice Zone’ have been used by some commentators. We need to stop, think and work out a compromise for this generation and the next... and the next.

CPRE North Yorkshire, like the other 43 branches in our network of independent charities, campaigns to protect and enhance the countryside.

When the balance is tipped towards harm, then we campaign hard.

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Yorkshire is not – and should not – be anyone’s sacrifice zone.

If only we could use one wand and one spell used by Harry Potter and say to fracking in North Yorkshire: “Expelliarmus!”

Jules Marley is the regional chair of CPRE Yorkshire and the Humber.