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RSPB raises fracking fears for Lancashire wildlife

Last modified: 17 August 2013

Whooper swan, spreading wings close up

The drilling on-site could cause disturbance to birds, such as whooper swans.

Image: Graham Catley

The RSPB is issuing its first objections to fracking proposals over concerns that the controversial drilling technique will harm wildlife and the climate.

The charity has lodged a letter of objection with Lancashire County Council to a proposal by Cuadrilla at Singleton near Blackpool in Lancashire. The drilling site is close to an internationally important protected area for pink footed geese and whooper swans and could cause disturbance to the birds.

The RSPB is also officially objecting to the contentious drilling proposal at Balcombe in Sussex on the grounds that no Environmental Impact Assessment has been carried out, and on climate change grounds.

Harry Huyton, RSPB head of climate and energy policy, said: “Many people are rightly concerned about the impact this new technology will have on their countryside. These are not just nimbys worried about house prices – there is a very real public disquiet about fracking.

“We have looked closely at the regulation in place to police drilling for shale gas, and it is simply not robust enough to ensure that our water, our landscapes and our wildlife is safe.

“Cuadrilla boss and former energy secretary Lord Howell claims that when he made his much publicised howler about fracking the ‘desolate North East’ he actually meant the North West. Singleton in Lancashire is right in the heart of the North West and is on the doorstep of an area which is home to thousands of geese and swans who will arrive from as far away as Siberia to roost and feed next month and stay for the winter.

“This area is protected by European law because it is so valuable for wildlife and Cuadrilla has done nothing to investigate what damage their activities could do to it.”

The RSPB has called on Lancashire County Council to ensure Cuadrilla has carried out a full Environmental Impact Assessment before it goes ahead with any work. The charity has also joined with other wildlife and environment groups to call on the Government to rethink its shale gas policies.

Mr Huyton added: “Government figures show that in the north of England there is potential for 5,000 sites and a total of up to 100,000 wells. The idea that these will have a benign impact on the countryside is very difficult to believe.

“Fracking is cutting edge-technology and we really have no idea what the impact will be on our wildlife. We do know, however, that concentrating our resources on extracting fossil fuel from the ground instead of investing in renewable energy threatens to undermine our commitment to avoiding dangerous levels of climate change.”

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