New fracking sites could soon be springing up across the country.

Fracking: Britain's big balancing act

Shale gas is certainly controversial, but Brits may be more willing to accept it as the desperation for cheaper energy bills takes hold.

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Campaigner: We should be getting out of fossil fuels

Britain should be looking at renewable energy options rather than widespread fracking, an environmental campaigner has told ITV News.

Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth’s Policy and Campaigns Director, says to tackle climate change the country should be "getting out of fossil fuels, not getting into them".

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Mapped: The areas opened up for fracking in Britain

A map shows the areas of Britain potentially available for shale gas exploration - also known as fracking.

Areas in yellow are already licensed, while those in blue are now available for bids.
Areas in yellow are already licensed, while those in blue are now available for bids. Credit: DECC

As shown above, the areas in blue are those available in the latest round of licensing, while those in yellow signify areas where licences have already been awarded - including Blackpool, Brighton and Portsmouth.

More information can be found on the Department for Energy and Climate Change website.

Fracking: Campaigners attack 'threat to public health'

Campaign groups have lined up in opposition to fracking as the bidding process for licences gets underway, with claims that the process is bad for the environment and unsafe to the public.

Campaigners have long opposed fracking in Britain.
Campaigners have long opposed fracking in Britain. Credit: Martin Gerten/DPA

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth say plans to protect National Parks will not quieten protesters, adding that communities should be offered the same safeguards.

Today the risk of fracking has spread. This threat to the environment and public health could now affect millions more people.

– Tony Bosworth, Friends of the Earth's energy campaigner

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.

– Louise Hutchins, Greenpeace UK energy campaigner

Report: Fracking 'could cause water shortages'

Bidding for licences to explore shale gas will open today.
Bidding for licences to explore shale gas will open today. Credit: Lindsey Parnaby/PA Archive

Shale gas fracking could lead to water shortgages in parts of the country, a report warned last week.

The paper by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) claimed the water-intensive nature of the process, along with predicted climate change, could mean existing public supplies may not provide enough to meet requirements.

The study also warned of "major shortcomings" in regulations regarding the local environmental and public health risks surrounding fracking.

It was also claimed that there was a "complete lack of evidence behind claims that shale gas exploitation will bring down UK energy bills".

Fracking: 'Robust regulation and monitoring is vital'

Robust regulation and comprehensive monitoring are vital to ensure the public acceptability test is met when it comes to fracking, Labour's Shadow Energy Minister has said.

Tom Greatrex said: "With 80 per cent of our heating coming from gas and declining North Sea reserves, shale and other unconventional gas may have the potential to form a part of our future energy mix.

"There are legitimate environmental concerns that must be addressed before extraction is permitted.

"David Cameron's Government must take these issues seriously rather than drawing simplistic and irresponsible comparisons with the USA."

His comments come after the government announced the bidding process for licences to explore shale gas will open today.

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National Parks 'to be protected' from fracking

National Parks will be protected from fracking unless there are "exceptional circumstances", ministers said.

As the latest bidding process for shale licences opened, ministers unveiled new guidance on which sites can be explored for gas and oil.

PA Wire
A view of the Lake District National Park. Credit: PA Wire

Applications to explore in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Sites and the Broads will refused other than in "exceptional circumstances and in the public interest".

Business and Energy minister Matthew Hancock said the new guidance will be "robustly enforced" to ensure Britain's "outstanding landscapes" are protected.

But Greenpeace said the policy would do nothing to reduce opposition to fracking, as campaigners continue to voice concern over the environmental risks.

Read: Bidding process for fracking licences set to open

Bidding process for fracking licences set to open

The bidding process for licences to explore shale gas will open today, the government has announced.

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A test for fracking is pictured in Manchester, as the latest bidding process for licences open today. Credit: PA Wire

The government is committed to going "all out for shale", claiming it is important for energy security, jobs and the economy.

But critics argue shale gas - which is extracted by the process of fracking - is damaging to the environment with the risk of water pollution.

The licences will allow companies to start test drilling, but they will still need to gain planning permission and environmental permits before further drilling can occur.

Councils call for levy on big supermarkets

A coalition of 20 councils is calling for a new levy on big supermarkets to pay for improvements in local shopping areas.

The local authorities say the tax could raise money to help revitalise town centres.

Councils claim big supermarkets are squeezing the life out of local areas.
Councils claim big supermarkets are squeezing the life out of local areas. Credit: PA Images

The leader of Derby City Council, which is leading the group, said that life was being "sucked out of the city centre" by big out-of-town stores.

Ranjit Banwait told Radio 4's Today programme the move was a response to "the worst cuts in history" to council funding.

A similar levy is in place in Northern Ireland, while in Scotland health services for smoking and drinking-related disease are partly funded by sellers of tobacco and alcohol.

New planning system 'puts local people in control'

Last year saw a 23% rise in applications for major housing projects, the Planning Minister has said.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Brandon Lewis argues that 'Nimbyism' - where people oppose construction in their area - was on the decline.

He said the fact 216,000 new homes had received planning permission in 2013 showed the success of the Government's planning reforms.

"The new planning system puts local people in control, so if they want to build more homes, they will," he says.

Read: Support for new homes increasing 'dramatically'

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