Allowing fracking under national parks would have a ‘grave and long-lasting environmental impact’, Sussex countryside campaigners have warned.
The new regulations, which would allow drilling in protected areas below depths of 1,200 metres but with surface infrastructure outside of their boundaries, were approved in a House of Commons vote by 298 to 261 MPs today (Wednesday December 16).
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Sussex branch has warned that the legislation could affect areas such as the South Downs National Park and Ashdown Forest.
Kia Trainor, CPRE Sussex director, said: “We are very disappointed that today MPs have not used their vote to protect our precious designated landscapes.
“Allowing fracking on the fringes of and underneath national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will affect their setting and conflict with the very purpose of their designation.”
Labour’s Shadow Energy and Climate Secretary Lisa Nandy said it was ‘frankly shabby’ that the Government had ‘sneaked through weak fracking rules’ without any proper parliamentary debate, while Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, called the decision ‘outrageous’.
He added: “It is tantamount to vandalism to not recognise that some areas simply must be protected from fracking so they can be enjoyed by future generations.”
David Johnson, CPRE Sussex Chairman, added: “Allowing fracking underneath protected sites is a serious U-turn on previous Government announcements.”
He continued: “Extensive exploitation of whatever shale oil reserves may in fact underlie the South Downs National Park and on the High Weald AONB would have a grave and long-lasting environmental impact on very special and much reassured areas of our countryside.”
Geologists surveying the South Downs National Park have raised concerns that the area may be unsuitable for fracking due to the formation of the rock which has high-angle geological faults.
Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping water and chemicals underground at high pressure to split apart porous shale rock to release trapped oil or gas.
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