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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.
Campaigners have argued that rules protecting National Parks from fracking could be bypassed due to a "giant loophole".
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."
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".
A map shows the areas of Britain potentially available for shale gas exploration - also known as fracking.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
The bidding process for licences to explore shale gas will open today, the government has announced.
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.
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Shale gas is certainly controversial, but Brits may be more willing to accept it as the desperation for cheaper energy bills takes hold.