Campaigners slam approval for fracking beneath National Parks

Environmental charities have reacted angrily after MPs voted through regulations that will allow fracking operations beneath the surface of National Parks.

National Parks: fracking to be allowed 1,200 metres beneath the surface
National Parks: fracking to be allowed 1,200 metres beneath the surface

Draft regulations published earlier this year were passed in Parliament yesterday, despite pleas by campaigners to outlaw the activity entirely in such areas.

They will allow fracking 1,200 metres beneath Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The regulations were approved by 298 votes to 261.

Rose Dickinson, energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "Although the government was forced to say that fracking will not be allowed in national parks, companies will be allowed to drill beneath them.

"All this means is that companies will be encouraged to set up their rigs on the boundaries of these protected places, and drill horizontally under national parks."

Conservation charity the RSPB said it was concerned that there is "no clear evidence of what a safe depth is beneath these sites to protect water and wildlife. Permitting drilling beneath them could encourage fracking wells to be located nearby, with associated noise, light and chemical pollution posing a risk to wildlife."

However, onshore oil and gas trade body UKOOG welcomed the result of the vote.

"The onshore oil industry takes the protection of our natural world seriously, and we have a long established track record of developing oil and gas fields successfully and safely in environmentally sensitive areas.

"It is important to recognise that any future hydraulic fracturing for shale will take place several kilometres underground and as an industry we take all possible steps to minimise our impact on the environment and the surrounding communities", it said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "The UK has one of the best track records in the world for protecting our environment while developing our industries. This is a great step forward – these regulations will help get this vital industry moving while protecting our environment and people."

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