Hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’)

Shale gas extracted by 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. Fracking sites also have the potential to 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. They may 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 and they may have wider environmental impacts, including triggering seismic activity.

The UK government has committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, under an amendment to the Climate Change Act (2008). The government has not yet set out how this will be achieved, in terms of managing energy production and demand. As a country, we currently continue to import fossil fuels to meet our demand.

Rather than supporting homegrown fossil fuel industries, such as fracking, government should put greater focus on renewable energy production; energy efficiency and conservation; and investment in renewable energy innovations (see our renewable energy policy).

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.

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. To start work a site would require planning permission and permits from the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

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 

Last updated November 2020.