ENVIRONMENT campaigners today called for tough rules requiring extensive “buffer zones” to protect communities from any fracking projects given the go-ahead in Scotland.
They said there should be a ban on the controversial mining method on sites within two kilometres – 1.2 miles – of houses.
The Lothians have been highlighted as an area where fracking could take place and the British Geological Survey announced last year it was to carry out an underground survey to assess the scale of shale gas deposits between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The Scottish Government has indicated it will include the idea of buffer zones in planning guidelines, but it has not said how big they should be.
A report by the Scottish Parliament’s energy committee said it welcomed ministers’ commitment to the zones and said it wanted a “robust separation distance”.
But Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone, pictured, a member of the committee, said it should have gone further and urged a 2km buffer.
Ms Johnstone said: “My inbox is full of e-mails from people really concerned about this technology.
“If commercial opportunities are available, undoubtedly there will be some people wanting to pursue them regardless of the impact.
“There is going to be a great deal of concern if any of these proposals are progressed.”
She said when she proposed a 2km buffer at the committee, she was supported by Labour’s Margaret McDougall and Richard Baker and the SNP’s Joan McAlpine but defeated by Conservative Murdo Fraser and Nationalists Mike Mackenzie, Chic Brodie and Christian Allard, while Edinburgh Central SNP MSP Marco Biagi abstained.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said it was disappointing the committee had passed up the opportunity to make a clear recommendation for buffer zones of 2km.
He said: “In New South Wales the limit is 2km and 95 per cent of all the residential homes at threat are now protected by a buffer zone. Surely communities and individuals in Scotland deserve no less.”
The committee recommended that, in the interests of transparency, official planning policy should include an explanation of the different roles and responsibilities of the various agencies involved in the licensing and monitoring of unconventional gas extraction and hydraulic fracturing.
And it said “given the controversy and lack of understanding of the nature of unconventional gas extraction processes”, the government should consider how SEPA and local planning authorities could work together to ensure that communities were adequately consulted on any applications for unconventional gas extraction and hydraulic fracturing and that there should be guidance on agreeing restoration works.
Committee convener Murdo Fraser said: “Scotland deserves a transparent and consistent policy that provides clarity for planners, developers and communities.”