Fracking: More Protection For National Parks
Fracking will be allowed in national parks and areas of outstanding beauty only in "exceptional circumstances", ministers say, as new bidding for shale exploration licences opens.
The policy is part of new guidance published by Government which is aiming to offer up vast swathes of Britain for fracking.
The Government has committed to going "all out for shale", claiming development of the gas and oil resource is needed to improve energy security, and boost jobs and the economy.
But opponents say the high-pressure injection of water risks polluting water supplies, damaging the environment and causing minor earthquakes, and argue further fossil fuels should not be extracted due to climate change.
Business and energy minister Matthew Hancock said: "The new guidance will protect Britain's great National Parks and outstanding landscapes, building on the existing rules that ensure operational best practices are implemented and robustly enforced.
"Ultimately, done right, speeding up shale will mean more jobs and opportunities for people and help ensure long-term economic and energy security for our country."
Where an application in National Parks is refused and the developer launches an appeal, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will consider whether to make the final decision himself to ensure the policy is being properly applied.
But Greenpeace campaigner Louise Hutchins warned: "Eric Pickles' supposed veto power over drilling in National Parks will do nothing to quell the disquiet of fracking opponents across Britain.
"Ministers waited until the parliamentary recess to make their move, no doubt aware of the political headache this will cause to MPs whose constituencies will be affected."
Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth said: "Today the risk of fracking has spread. This threat to the environment and public health could now affect millions more people.
"Those who thought that fracking would only happen in other places will now worry about it happening on their doorstep."
The shale exploration licences which can be applied for from now provide the first step to start drilling, but do not give an absolute agreement to drill.
Planning permission, permits from the Environment Agency and agreement from the Health and Safety Executive will be required for further drilling.