MPs voted in favour of the statutory instrument that will allow fracking under national parks

MPs voted in favour of the statutory instrument that will allow fracking under national parks

Campaigners have expressed their disappointment at MPs’ decision to allow fracking under national parks.

The House of Commons voted by 298 to 261in favour of the move today.

The move means companies will be able to drill and use the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique to extract shale gas from the ground beneath national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty as long as the works are 1,200m deep.

Drilling heads will have to be outside the protected areas’ boundaries but the drilling will be permitted deep within some of the country’s best terrain. The Conservative UK Government introduced the regulation under a statutory instrument, which limits debate within Parliament.

The Campaign for National Parks said: “Earlier this year the Government had promised a ban on fracking in national parks but did not make clear how this would happen.

“However, their latest move sees fracking allowed in national parks below depths of 1,200m.”

Fiona Howie, chief executive of Campaign for National Parks said: “It is really disappointing that the regulations have been approved. Especially as Parliament was not given the chance to consider and discuss the concerns we have been raising.

“Fracking should not be allowed to take place under national parks and other protected areas. We don’t yet know what the longer-term effects of this would be on these protected areas, so given this uncertainty the Government should have kept to their word and prevented hydraulic fracturing in protected areas at any depth.”

In February, environmental campaigners accused the then coalition Government of backtracking on a commitment to ban fracking in national parks in England and Wales.

The Westminster Government had initially accepted a series of opposition amendments to the Infrastructure Bill, but they were dismantled in the House of Lords.

This led campaigners to raise the prospect of drilling works encircling the protected areas, with horizontal drilling operations extending well into them, a prediction borne out by today’s vote.

Fracking will be allowed under areas such as the Howgill Fells in the Yorkshire Dales national park

Fracking will be allowed under areas such as the Howgill Fells in the Yorkshire Dales national park

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow energy and climate secretary, said today: “It is frankly shabby of the Government to sneak through these weak fracking rules without any proper Parliamentary debate.

“Ministers had previously conceded that there should be the tougher safeguards that Labour has been calling for to protect drinking water sources and sensitive parts of our countryside like national parks. Now they’ve abandoned those promises.

“We should have a moratorium on fracking in Britain until we can be sure it is safe and won’t present intolerable risks to our environment. Neither MPs or the public have received these assurances yet ministers are ignoring people’s legitimate concerns and imposing fracking on communities.”

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, whose Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency includes parts of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks, condemned the Government decision to allow fracking in national parks and other sensitive areas.

He said: “The Government’s decision to sneak through a huge change to allow fracking in our national parks without a proper debate is outrageous. They have shown their true colours and complete lack of regard for protecting some of the most beautifully scenery in the UK and its wildlife.

“It is tantamount to vandalism to not recognise that some areas simply must be protected from fracking so they can be enjoyed by future generations.

“The Liberal Democrats protected national parks and important wildlife sites from fracking while in Government, and have consistently taken a cautious approach to fracking. There are some sites where fracking should be banned in all circumstances.

“Our priority is to make sure this happens and to focus on how Britain can best deliver a low-carbon future to tackle climate change.”

Conservative energy and climate change minister Amber Rudd said: “The Government is creating a regulatory regime that provides clear, strong protections for the environment.

“The Government has clearly committed to ensuring that fracking cannot be conducted from wells that are drilled at the surface of national parks, and I am confident that these protections will ensure that the beauty of our national parks is protected.

“The UK has one of the best track records in the world when it comes to protecting our environment while also developing our industries, and ministers have assured me that that this experience will be brought to bear on the shale gas protections.

“The industry will be developed safely with world class environmental protections, creating jobs and delivering better energy security, while all the time safeguarding some of our most precious landscapes.”

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