Hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’)

We are in the process of updating our guidance to our volunteers on fracking. More from us soon. 

Fracking should not take place in areas that are designated for their natural beauty, biodiversity or geology. Outside of designated areas each application should be considered for its impacts upon people’s ability to enjoy the outdoors as well on the beauty and character of the countryside and on climate change.

The issue

Fracking could potentially harm the beauty of the countryside: drilling sites are likely to be around the size of a football pitch, with the character and tranquillity of landscapes affected by both the onsite activities and the number of traffic movements associated with them.

Fracking may also affect access to the places we walk, where operations could require the diversion or stopping up of public rights of way and restrictions to rights of open access. Further disruption could also occur across a wider area due to the combined effects of several sites.

Shale gas extracted from fracking is a fossil fuel; its widespread use is counter to our policy to see an increase in the amount of energy we derive from renewable sources.

Our position

  • Fracking has an unacceptable impact on the beauty and character of the countryside which is incompatible with areas that are designated for their natural beauty, biodiversity or geology.
  • Fracking should not take place within a National Park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or National Scenic Area; such activity is incompatible with their statutory purposes and would undermine their designation for the protection of their landscape and scenic beauty.
  • Fracking should not take place within Sites of Special Scientific Interest or Natura 2000 sites; such activity is incompatible with their statutory designations and would undermine their biodiversity, habitats, geology and physiography.
  • Outside of designated areas each application should be considered for its impacts upon people’s ability to enjoy the outdoors via public rights of way and public access land as well on the beauty and character of the countryside and on climate change.

Government action

Currently, only test drilling has been conducted but a large number of sites could move to full production in England if the Government addresses the barriers within the planning and permit systems.

A moratorium on all planning applications is in place in Scotland with full control over fracking due to be devolved after the May 2016 election.

In Wales a similar moratorium is unlikely to be tested as the UK Government has said it has no plans for any new licences for fracking to be made before powers are devolved to the Welsh Assembly.

Background to the issue

Fracking is the deliberate fracturing of rock using pressurised liquid to extract unconventional gas resources; in the UK this method would primarily be used to recover shale gas. Extracting shale gas from sedimentary shale requires drilling into the gas-bearing layer of the rock and using explosives to create small fractures which are in turn widened by injecting water mixed with sand and chemicals under high pressure. The gas, along with the waste water, flows back up the well to the surface to be processed.

Fracking is considered an intensive industrial process and normally has a larger environmental footprint than conventional gas. To start work a site would require planning permission and permits from the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and Department of Energy & Climate Change.

The impacts on public rights of way, designated landscapes and public access would be addressed via the planning process, but separate orders may be required to divert or stop up public rights of way or restrict any public rights of access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW Act).

For further information on our fracking policy please contact policy@ramblers.org.uk

Download the full policy briefing as a PDF

Links to additional information

This page was last updated on 30 March 2016.