Ministers 'backtrack' on national park fracking ban pledge

Reports that ministers have been accused of watering down measures to impose greater restrictions on where fracking can take place feature in today's newspaper round-up.

Fracking will be allowed to take place beneath national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) despite a commitment made by ministers less than three weeks ago, the Daily Telegraph reports. According to the newspaper, energy companies will not be allowed to site fracking bases on the ground within the protected zones but may station drilling rigs outside perimeters and drill horizontally. The newspaper reports that Amber Rudd, the energy minister, said that preventing fracking beneath such areas would not be "practical" and would "unduly constrain" companies.

The Times (subscription required) reports that plans to build the UK's first nuclear reactor in a generation at Hinkley Point have been delayed until after the general election. According to the newspaper, French state-backed group EDF said that negotiations with its Chinese state-owned partners and the British government would not be concluded in time to sanction the £16 billion project by the deadline next month.

The Guardian reports that "vital" level crossings are at risk of closure under plans to shorten rail journey times. According to the newspaper, "without crossings, the railway becomes an endless barrier dividing communities, with people finding themselves literally on the wrong side of the tracks". The newspaper reports that in Stowmarket, Suffolk, "there are dark warnings of a Berlin wall through the market town".

The Guardian also reports that "one of Britain's highest paid social housing bosses has been accused of social cleansing over plans to evict low-income tenants to make way for multimillion-pound private homes in one of London's richest enclaves". The newspaper reports that Chelsea residents have launched a campaign to block plans by Keith Exford, chief executive of Affinity Sutton, to demolish most of the Sutton Estate and rebuild it with 144 fewer affordable homes and 106 new private apartments, "many expected to be worth more than £4 million each". An Affinity Sutton spokeswoman told the newspaper that the organisation's "core aim is to secure the future of social housing in Chelsea". She added that the revenue from the sale of private apartments "is necessary to fund the considerable cost of the redevelopment as there is no government funding".