In this blog, I am not mincing my words. I call on the sitting Richmond MP, Rushi Sunak, to resign for misleading the voters in the Richmond Constituency over fracking under National Parks.
As the Green Party candidate for Richmond (Yorks) at the last general election, I was in an excellent position to hear the promises made by Mr Sunak.
At several public meetings during the election campaign, as well as in his manifesto, Mr Sunak assured people that a Tory Government would not be fracking under our National Parks. However, Mr Sunak has just voted in the House of Commons to do just that.
The vote on the Government’s Draft Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing (Protected Areas) Regulations 2015 will see fracking allowed beneath National Parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Groundwater Protection Zones, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and World Heritage sites. This could expose many of the UK’s most fragile and treasured landscapes to noise, air and light pollution, resulting from fracking rigs being situated around the edges of protected areas, in order to drill down and then horizontally across to access the shale gas reserves beneath.
The Government had previously committed to an ‘outright ban’ on fracking in National Parks, AONBs and SSSIs. However, the latest regulations attempt to sidestep this by allowing underground drilling in the fissures deep below protected areas. This could lead to thousands of lorry movements to transport equipment and fluids, noise from compressors, and 24 hour floodlighting around the perimeters of these areas – causing pollution to spill over into Britain’s most precious countryside.
SSSIs are conservation areas for wildlife and rare plants. There are around 4,000 in the UK, protecting 8% of land. There are 15 National Parks in England, Scotland and Wales, covering 22,658 square kilometres: more than a tenth of the area of Great Britain.
Greenpeace estimates that 300 square kilometres of the North York Moors could become open to fracking after government consultation, as well as areas near Stokesley in the Richmond constituency.
Mr Sunak and the Conservatives deliberately misled the electorate about their intentions over fracking. Also, the vote this week goes directly counter to the Paris Agreement last week on climate change. To meet those agreed targets it is essential that no fracking takes place, as the Government have also abandoned their proposals for carbon capture.
Any jobs created by fracking will be in the tens, not the thousands boasted by Mr Sunak and will be more than outweighed by those lost to the tourist trade.
Mr Sunak and the Conservatives are cynically putting our environment at risk in pursuit of corporate profit and Mr Sunak should resign for misleading voters in the Richmond constituency.