The South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) made their decision last week on a potential fracking site in the South Downs National Park and that decision was no.
The SDNPA concluded that there were no exceptional circumstances to justify drilling at Fernhurst, in line with a recommendation from its planning officials, who had taken legal advice.
The refusal comes following the Government’s previously issued guidance that fracking should only take place in National Parks in “exceptional” circumstances.
Despite ambiguity in the Government’s guidance surrounding the definition of “exceptional” the guidance has ensured that standards of application and background data required to achieve permission are set very high and that is something to be proud of.
The applicants have said they are considering an appeal on the decision and the robustness of the national planning policy will be tested yet again.
Risks to groundwater can be considerable including cross contamination through bridging of geological units, the introduction of drilling fluids and ex situ materials into the aquifer causing pollution and potentially affecting flow dynamics in the subsurface.
There are also potential risks associated with the surface management of the development too during prospecting, drilling and operation.
Environmental protection measures are available that can greatly reduce the potential for negative impacts and the final decision is likely to come down to the commitments of the applicants, the public response, guidance, national and local policies.
Watch this space!