Monday 7th September 2015

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is alarmed at the prospect of fracking taking place in the Forest of Dean, an internationally important site for bats which rely on the underground cave system. The Government’s latest consultation identifies the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley as areas where applications have been received from companies seeking licences to explore for shale gas.

An initial sieve of applications by government has concluded that the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley might be a suitable area for fracking if conditions are put in place to safeguard European sites of wildlife interest. But the Trust believes that the area is too environmentally-sensitive for fracking to take place, especially as the main interest – 25% of the UK’s lesser horseshoe bat population – relies on the Forest of Dean’s complex and fragile underground network of mines and caves.

Dr Colin Studholme, the Trust’s Director of Conservation said, “Conditions will be applied to fracking proposals to make sure that they do not impact on sites of European significance, but the European designation covering the bat interest in the Forest of Dean is flawed as it fails to adequately cover the underground caves on which the bats depend. When this is factored in the whole for the Forest of Dean becomes a no-go area for fracking.”

The Trust is calling on the government to exclude the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley as a potential area for fracking.

Dr Studholme continued: “There are still considerable uncertainties about the potential disturbance levels creating by fracking, but evidence suggests it could be significant, including underground water pollution and flooding. As the important wildlife habitat is underground and out of site we may not know if it has been damaged by fracking until it is too late. If there is ever a time to apply the “precautionary principle” it is now.

As the important wildlife habitat is underground and out of site we may not know if it has been damaged by fracking until it is too late

Local Bat Expert David Priddis agreed adding, “fracking in the Forest of Dean would be likely to impact on foraging, possibly commuting and almost certainly on hibernation requirements for horseshoe bats. The suggested 1km buffer zone around the designated European site is totally inadequate. Underground vibration is likely to cause bats arousal from torpor, so could lead to mortalities if this happens several times during winter and there would be a risk of collapse of areas of some sites, or even blockage of entrances. There is also likely to be toxic gas leakage into underground sites.”

The Trust will be submitting its objection to the proposals by the consultation deadline of 29th September and is encouraging as many people as possible to comment as well, highlighting the potential impact on the Forest of Dean caves and its rare population of bats. There is also a 38 degrees petition


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TWTs Fit to Frack.pdf880.94 KB