Keith Taylor MEP calls on Council planners to prevent oil drilling in South Downs National Park

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England, has voiced his opposition to future planning policy for oil and gas exploration and production in West Sussex and the South Downs National Park.

Responding to the public consultation on the minerals plan, which dictates policy in the area until 2033, Keith, a member of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, expressed serious concerns about the impact of the policy in its current form on both the environment and local communities and has called for it to be amended.

The draft plan has a separate policy for oil and gas developments using hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” which is prevented in sensitive areas such as the national park. But Friends of the Earth, CPRE, Frack Free Sussex and many local residents are concerned that the definition of fracking, mirroring as it does the definition in the Infrastructure Act, is too narrow and could easily be sidestepped by the industry.

Keith has called for the definition to be expanded to include any extraction of oil or gas involving stimulation, sharing as they do many of the negatives effects of fracking including traffic, air pollution, flares, intensive water use, potential drinking water pollution, spills, leaks, large volumes of toxic liquid waste and stress on local communities.

Keith said: “The law defines fracking by the volume of fluid used at each stage of fracturing. This narrow definition is, at best, naive and, at worst, a dereliction of duty. Technology has moved on apace since the legislation was first drafted and we are now seeing planning applications, like the one at Markwell’s Wood in the South Downs National Park, that fall outside this legal definition but are closely aligned with the techniques of hydraulic fracturing.”

“The Plan must be future-proofed to ensure this type of application can be rejected. It would be a wholly inappropriate method of despoiling our beautiful national park. The local and global environment, our precious countryside and local communities simply must be protected from the very worst effects of this inherently risky industry.”

“Energy is critical to economic and social wellbeing. But it is also the dominant contributor to climate change. The energy sector generates approximately two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions and over 80% of total CO2. The challenge for us is to protect and improve prosperity whilst at the same time dramatically reducing emissions.”

“Onshore oil and gas supplies do not contribute to the country’s energy security. In fact, by contributing to climate change they do the exact opposite. Our energy infrastructure is directly threatened by climate change, both by gradually rising air and water temperatures, and more frequent extreme events such as heat waves, droughts, rain and storms. There are better mechanisms for reducing energy imports than exploiting onshore oil and gas. Genuine energy security cannot be separated from climate security and will only be achieved when we complete the move to a low-carbon, circular economy.”

“New and continued oil and gas extraction is not only incompatible with our commitments under the Paris climate agreement but also represents a dangerous distraction from the urgent, disciplined work that must be done. That is why I am calling for a complete embargo on all new oil and gas developments in West Sussex.”