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Planners reject Sussex drilling scheme

Planners have rejected a bid by a shale company to explore for oil and gas in the South Downs National Park. Celtique Energie put in a planning application for a site near Fernhurst, West Sussex, to drill a temporary vertical well to test for oil and gas.

The controversial plan, which attracted more than 5,500 objections, could also have led to the drilling of a horizontal well extending out from it.

But members of the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) heeded their officers' recommendations and turned down the application overwhelmingly.

Cheers and applause broke out among opponents fearful that the plan could have led to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, taking place if the drilling had been successful.

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National Trust: Protect nature reserves from fracking

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

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.

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'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 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."

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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. 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.

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

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.

Caroline Lucas cleared of charges

Brighton's Green MP has been cleared of charges following the fracking Credit: ITV Meridian

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has been found not guilty at Brighton Magistrates' Court this afternoon.

She was among a group of protesters who had linked arms outside the site, which had become a national focal point for anti-fracking protests.

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