Fracking for shale gas will now be allowed below national parks and other protected sites including groundwater protection zones as the government goes back on its pledge to not do so.
MPs voted 298 to 261 on Wednesday in favour of new regulations to allow shale gas extraction 1,200m below these protected areas. This comes after it agreed an “outright ban” on fracking in these areas last January.
Shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy accused ministers of using a “parliamentary backdoor” to try to approve the “weak regulations” without debate.
She said: “Fracking should not go ahead in Britain until stronger safeguards are in place to protect drinking water sources and sensitive parts of our countryside like national parks.”
Green groups criticised the government for its U-turn. “To allow fracking in the areas supplying drinking water aquifers simply goes against common sense,” wrote Rose Dickinson of Friends of the Earth.
Hannah Martin, Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “As a result of today’s vote, these places can now be fracked in all but name.
“Whether the fracking infrastructure is set up just outside the boundaries of national parks is a moot point: these previously protected areas could be ringed by drilling rigs, floodlights and compressors – and play host to thousands of lorry movements – meaning the most precious landscapes in our country are blighted by noise, air and light pollution.”
The vote did however see a number of Conservative MPs rebel against the Government.
Conservative MP Andrew Turner, whose Isle of Wight constituency is under threat of fracking, said: “I voted against the proposals. Although the Government has listened to concerns raised and made a number of concessions, I do not believe that they go far enough to protect environmentally sensitive areas such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”
Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, whose constituency covers the South Downs, tweeted: “I oppose fracking in & on edges/under our National Parks & AONBs & have voted against this”.
Photo: UKGardenPhotos via Flickr