THE National Trust has warned environmental regulations for shale gas exploration are “inadequate” and says fracking should be banned in national parks.
The move has been welcomed by groups campaigning to prevent oil and gas exploration around the South Downs National Park, including Fernhurst and Wisborough Green.
The report Are We Fit to Frack? was launched by six organisations including the National Trust, RSPB, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Angling Trust, and contains proposals to limit the potential impact of fracking on the environment.
They include creating ‘no frack zones’ around the UK’s most sensitive conservation areas - some of which are believed to be richest in shale gas.
Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Lawrence Carter told the Observer: “It feels like common sense not to frack for oil and gas in a national park. But where most visitors to the South Downs see beautiful rolling hills, rich wildlife, and forests, Celtique Energie only see pound signs.
“The determination of the government and fracking companies to sink their drills into our most treasured environments has now prompted the nation’s most trusted conservation groups to argue that fracking is too risky to take place anywhere near our national parks.
“This spells big trouble for Celtique, who now appear to be on a collision course, not only with the people of Sussex, but with the over six million people represented by the authors of this report.”
Ministers are this year planning to offer energy companies the chance to apply for rights to drill across almost 40,000 square miles of Britain in the hope that development of vast shale gas resources could bring down energy bills.
But the National Trust says that 12 per cent of this land - about 5,000 square miles - is covered by protected wildlife areas, nature reserves or national Parks and should be excluded.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) has published an environmental study into the scale of shale reserves and its potential impacts. It is out for public consultation until March 28.