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Place and avoiding the race to the bottom of the fractured well

John Pearson (Manchester Law School, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, Manchester, UK)

Journal of Place Management and Development

ISSN: 1753-8335

Article publication date: 29 January 2024

Issue publication date: 15 May 2024




This paper aims to consider the potential implications of the layering of regulation in relation to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at the borders between the nations of the UK.


This paper uses a qualitative research method grounded in particular in legal geography to examine the existing approaches to regulating hydraulic fracturing and identify the places and their features that are constructed as a result of their intersection at the borders of the nations comprising the UK.


The current regulatory framework concerning hydraulic fracturing risks restricts the places in which the practice can occur in such a manner as to potentially cause greater environmental harm should the process be used. The regulations governing the process are not aligned in relation to the surface and subsurface aspects of the process to enable their management, once operational, as a singularly constructed place of extraction. Strong regulation at the surface can have the effect of influencing placement of the site only in relation to the place at which the resource sought reaches the surface, whilst having little to no impact on the environmental harms, which will result at the subsurface or relative to other potential surface site positions, and potentially even increasing them.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is limited by uncertainty as to the future use of hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas within the UK. The issues raised within it would also be applicable to other extractive industries where a surface site might be placed within a radius of the subsurface point of extraction, rather than having to be located at a fixed point relative to that in the subsurface. This paper therefore raises concerns that might be explored more generally in relation to the regulation of the place of resource extraction, particularly at legal borders between jurisdictions, and the impact of regulation, which does not account for the misalignment of regulation of spaces above and below the surface that form a single place at which extraction occurs.

Social implications

This paper considers the potential impacts of misaligned positions held by nations in the UK in relation to environmentally harmful practices undertaken by extractive industries, which are highlighted by an analysis of the extant regulatory framework for hydraulic fracturing.


Whilst the potential for cross internal border extraction of gas within the UK via hydraulic fracturing and the regulatory consequences of this has been highlighted in academic literature, this paper examines the implications of regulation for the least environmentally harmful placement of the process.



Pearson, J. (2024), "Place and avoiding the race to the bottom of the fractured well", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 186-203.



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