Alongside a large cross-section of environmental and conservation groups the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust does not support the Government’s rush into fracking – prompted by serious concerns about the threat fracking poses to communities, wildlife and the natural environment.

There are three main reasons why we do not support fracking as currently proposed:

  1. The UK will be left with a gas-dependent energy system for decades to come, meaning our ability to meet our legally-binding carbon targets will be significantly compromised and focus will be taken away from renewable energy sources.
  2. The current protection proposed for environmentally-sensitive areas is not stringent enough to guarantee their protection.
  3. Fracking poses multiple environmental risks, such as contamination of groundwater, and methane leakages, which could severely harm communities, wildlife and ecosystems. Large amounts of land are also required for fracking to take place.

If fracking is permitted, we want to see stringent regulation put in place as recommended in the report ‘Fit to Frack?’. These include:

  • Avoiding sensitive areas for wildlife and water resources
  • Making Environmental Impact Assessments mandatory
  • Requiring the shale extraction companies to pay for the regulation
  • Preventing taxpayers from the costs of any pollution
  • Making water companies statutory consultees in the planning process
  • Requiring a Groundwater Permit for all operations
  • Making sure the Best Available Techniques for mine waste water management are rigorously defines and regularly reviewed
  • Ensuring full transparency of the shale gas industry and its environmental impact
  • Ensuring monitoring and testing of shale gas operations is rigorous and independent
  • Minimising and monitoring methane emissions
  • Fracking potential locally

In August 2015, 27 licences were awarded for fracking in the North of England including licences to the company Ineos for areas to the east of Sheffield and to IGas for areas to the north-east of Sheffield. Central Sheffield and areas to the south and west of Sheffield are in the next licencing round (14th) which is currently undergoing consultation (see below).

Licence holders still have to apply for permission for undertaking activities through the planning process. However, there is a risk that even if Sheffield and Rotherham Local Planning Authorities do not support fracking applications, the Government can now intervene and potentially make a decision if they think a Planning Authority is taking too long. But as a lengthy decision in Lancashire shows – understanding the potential impacts of a proposal is complex – these decisions should not be rushed.