Fracking licence bidding to open as National Parks are protected

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.

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

Ministers are also expected to announce that National Parks will be protected from the practice unless there are "exceptional circumstances".

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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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