Geologists have published research saying the South Downs is one of four national parks which have rocks suitable for fracking.
After reviewing existing geological data, scientists at Durham’s Department of Earth Sciences highlighted the potential suitability of each of the country’s 15 national parks for fracking activity according to their rock type.
They found most of them are unsuitable, but the South Downs National Park was.
The briefing document found the four parks with geology to interest companies looking to exploit shale gas, shale oil or coal bed methane were the North York Moors, the Peak District, the South Downs and the Yorkshire Dales.
Fracking was considered “unlikely” in the Brecon Beacons, Exmoor, New Forest and Northumberland. They have shales or coals present but other aspects of their geology make fracking unfavourable.
The remaining seven national parks - the Broads, Cairngorms, Dartmoor, Lake District, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, Pembrokeshire Coast and Snowdonia - have geology which rules out fracking, the report found.
Those behind the study, published today, said they produced the report as, they claimed, there remained uncertainty about the policy on fracking in national parks.
Author Dr Liam Herringshaw, of Durham’s Department of Earth Sciences, said the briefing had been prompted by confusion around Government policy in relation to fracking in national parks. It has become a election promise in several manifestos.
He said: “The geology of the UK is well-known, so we can examine which national parks are potential targets for fracking, and which national parks can be ruled out.
“Some national parks have no shales or coal within them or adjacent to them, so are of no interest to fracking companies. Many other national parks do contain shales or coal, but their nature means that they are unlikely to yield economic quantities of oil or gas.
“We hope that this review of existing information about the geology of the UK’s national parks will help provide all sides involved in the fracking debate with some clarity about the potential for fracking in these areas, which currently appears to be lacking.”
Campaigners have reacted to the news saying other options must be considered.
Brenda Pollack, Friends of the Earth’s South East regional campaigner said: “Any future government must actively discourage the reckless pursuit of fossil fuels, including shale gas and oil. Climate Change is one of the biggest threats to our National Parks.
“Leaving fossil fuels in the ground will avoid local impacts, such as more lorries and noise, at the same time as avoiding increased global temperatures.
“Whoever forms the next Government must stick to their promises and make sure no fracking takes place in the South Downs. In any case, the best way to ensure no fracking under our National Parks and other designated areas is to ban fracking anywhere.”