Under the new regulations, the controversial technique to drill for shale gas will be permitted 1,200 metres below national parks, provided the drilling avoids protected areas.
This U-turn comes after the government pledged a ban on the controversial technique in protected areas Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty.
In a Commons vote in January 2015, the government rejected a bid to suspend fracking and an “outright ban” on fracking in national parks was passed. MPs voted 298 to 261 in favour of fracking.
Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change on shale gas, said: “We said in our Manifesto that we would support the safe development of shale gas and as a One Nation Government that’s what we will do, because it’s good for jobs, it’s part of our plan to ensure the potential of all parts of the UK is realised and it’s good for our energy security.”
However, Green Peace have warned that the move could result in national parks being circled by rigs, as fracking firms try to drill horizontally to extract gas from underneath.
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Hannah Martin, Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “What we have seen today is the Government breaking its promise and forcing through regulations which will allow fracking underneath some of the most fragile and treasured landscapes in Britain. These areas have been protected for a reason: stunning areas like the Peak District, the North York Moors and the South Downs.
“And it’s clear that the Tories can’t even convince some of their own MPs that fracking under national parks and other areas of natural beauty is a good idea – so why should the public believe them?”
Four Conservative MPs voted against fracking, including Zac Goldsmith, Sarah Wollaston and Andrew Turner.
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.”
Fracking is not currently taking place in the UK, but more than 100 sites are expected to be granted fracking licences, with the majority in Northern England.