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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National Trust: Protect nature reserves from fracking

Nature reserves are not currently among the protected fracking areas.
Nature reserves are not currently among the protected fracking areas. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive

The National Trust has welcomed new government guidelines dictating that applications for fracking in protected areas such as National Parks should be refused in all but "exceptional" circumstances.

The organisation said it was "right" that the Government addressed concerns about the impact on "special places", but called for the measures to be extended to nature reserves and other wildlife sites.

This is a significant change in approach from DECC. We hope it will reflect a much more cautious approach that recognises the risks of turning some of the most special places in the country over to industrial scale extraction of shale gas and oil.

– Richard Hebditch, National Trust

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Weather: Storms return to bring lively start to the week

by - ITV Weather Presenter

By Lucy Verasamy: Weather Presenter

A lively start to the week with intense thundery rain through the south-east already - and further downpours in places this afternoon.

A few scattered, light showers will drift through Northern Ireland, the West Country and Wales.

Elsewhere a fine, bright day with sunshine. Looking good in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games.

Highs of 22C in the north and 25C in the south, but muggy with the thundery air.

National

'Giant loophole could allow fracking in National Parks'

Campaigners have argued that rules protecting National Parks from fracking could be bypassed due to a "giant loophole".

Many local communities have shown resistance to plans for fracking.
Many local communities have shown resistance to plans for fracking in their areas. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive

The Government has said fracking in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) and the Broads should be refused other than in "exceptional circumstances and in the public interest".

But environmentalists warned that as ministers have indicated that developing shale gas and oil resources is in the interests of the country, the rules could allow fracking in protected areas.

Official guidance states that if proposed development for shale oil or gas would lead to substantial harm or to loss of a World Heritage Site, planners should refuse consent "unless wholly exceptional circumstances apply".

Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Simon Clydesdale said: "By introducing an exception under a vague 'public interest' case, they've created a giant loophole that could allow fracking all over these protected areas, potentially causing serious environmental damage to our unique natural heritage."

National

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.

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Could Kent be the next fracking battle ground?

An energy company's plans to drill for gas at four sites in Kent risks the contamination of drinking water supplies to thousands of homes.

That's the claim, tonight, from residents, farmers - and scientists - campaigning to kill off proposals for exploratory drilling at a former quarry at Tilmanstone... a farm in Guston... and woodland at Sheperdswell. A licence has already been granted for drilling on land at Woodnesborough.

Exploratory drilling at Balcombe in Sussex - again for gas - was abandoned after months of mass protest. There had been fears that any exploration would lead to the controversial method of fracking.

Andrea Thomas reports. She spoke to retired university lecturer Geoff Mead, Graham Warren from the Council for the Protection of Rural England, Rosemary Rechter from East Kent Against Fracking and Andrew Wiseman, an environmental lawyer.

Sussex people 'concerned' about fracking

Protesters
Anti-fracking demonstrators Credit: Meridian

A strong majority of Sussex residents say they are concerned about fracking coming to the area, according to Greenpeace. They say people want local leaders to put planning decisions on hold until more evidence of the impacts of shale drilling is available and a proper debate has taken place,

It comes just weeks before planning authorities in Sussex are set to become the first in years to decide on whether to grant planning permission to fracking firms. Greenpeace say people are concerned water contamination, tremors, heavy lorry traffic and landscape damage.

Judge retires in Brighton MP fracking case

The judge has retired to consider his verdicts in the trial of a Brighton MP who was charged after staging an anti-fracking demonstration.

Green MP Caroline Lucas was arrested outside the building of the energy company Cuadrilla in West Sussex last August.

She was part of a group of protesters who had linked arms around the site.

During the trial at Brighton Magistrates' Court alongside her four co-defendants, Lucas said she "wanted to express solidarity" by protesting peacefully.

She denies two charges - wilful obstruction of a public highway and breaching an order under Section 14 of the Public Order Act which required protesters to use a designated protest area nearby

Verdicts are due to be delivered from 2pm.

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