Don’t fear fracking U-turn, says Tory MP

Kevin Hollinrake, MPKevin Hollinrake, MP
Kevin Hollinrake, MP
A fracking u-turn which means drilling could take place under hundreds of square miles of national parkland in Yorkshire shouldn’t strike fear into communities, a Conservative MP has said.

Kevin Hollinrake, MP for the potential fracking hotspot of Thirsk and Malton, said he was assured that plans to drill at depths of 1,200m and below under protected park landscape after a Government change of heart would not disrupt the landscape of treasured beautyspots.

Despite being lobbied by people in his constituency to oppose Government legislation that would allow drilling for shale gas under the North York Moors and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), the Conservative politician said he had received ‘reassurances’ from ministers that most concerns people have over fracking ‘will not be realised’.

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On Tuesday, a Second Delegated Legislation Committee voted 10 members to eight to allow drilling under sites of special scientific interest, and locations where drinking water is collected below 1,200m. This will be voted on in the Commons next week.

Rules around what activity can take on the surface of protected areas is due to come before MPs at a different time, although Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said no well-heads would be allowed in protected areas.

Mr Hollinrake, who undertook a self-funded five-day trip to Philadelphia to learn more about fracking this year, said it was important to remember that conventional drilling is still allowed to take place in protected parks and legislation shouldn’t confuse current activity.

He said: “Conventional drilling is allowed in National Parks and AONB, and fracking is not. It’s about not making conventional drilling illegal in national parks, and certainly making sure activity already given permission isn’t prohibited.”

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Schemes like Third Energy’s application to explore fracking at Kirby Misperton have drawn a great deal of criticism from local residents and councillors, and the Government’s decision to back-track on previous promises to not frack under national parks or protected landscape has angered many campaigners in Yorkshire.

Mr Hollinrake, said: “I’ve put on record my concerns around AONB, national parks, and sites of special scientific interest, and I’ve had reassurances back from Government although there are some things not covered in the legislation, those protections will be brought forward so people’s concerns about seeing drilling going on and fracking going on in national parks and AONB, will not be realised.”

Environmental group Greenpeace is concerned that 300 square kilometres of the North York Moors and 75 square kilometres of the Peak District could be an ideal geological source for drilling for shale gas.

Greenpeace’s Head of Energy Daisy Sands told The Yorkshire Post: “Flares, drilling rigs, and heavy lorries could pollute the air and the landscape near World Heritage Sites, national parks as well as threaten groundwater.

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“Blindly ignoring the potential of renewable energy whilst pushing fracking won’t work because it defies any economic or environmental sense.”

Harry Harpham, Labour MP for Sheffield Brightside, said: “I’m deeply disappointed that the Government have moved the goalposts in the way they have.

“They’ve now opened the door to fracking right in the heart of some of our finest landscapes, not least the Peak District.”