By Kyla Mandel • Wednesday, December 16, 2015
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”.
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – Landscapes for Life
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is exactly what it says it is: an outstanding landscape whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so precious that it is in the nation’s interest to safeguard them.
There are 46 AONBs in Britain (33 wholly in England, four wholly in Wales, one which straddles the English/Welsh border and eight in Northern Ireland) and they cover 18% of our countryside.
AONBs are designated in recognition of their national importance and to ensure that their character and qualities are protected for all to enjoy.
They are living, working landscapes, much loved and valued by all who enjoy them. They are powerful symbols of our national pride: places of motivation, inheritance, excitement, pleasure and profit. The flora, fauna, history and culture of our AONBs’ lowland heath, wild moor, towering peaks, dramatic gorges, sheer cliffs, gently rolling hills, sandy beaches, spectacular cliffs, quiet coves, rocky shores, sand dunes, saltmarsh and shimmering estuaries ensure they remain Landscapes for Life.
There are 46 AONBs throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Just click the map for a larger view or select an AONB below to find out more
England and Wales: