MPs approve fracking plans for below national parks and world heritage sites

Controversial plans to allow fracking under national parks have been approved by MPs amid accusations that ministers "sneaked" the move through a "parliamentary backdoor".

The regulations state that fracking can take place three-quarters of a mile (1,200m) below national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, world heritage sites, the Broads in Norfolk and Suffolk and certain groundwater areas.

The rules also allow fracking under protected areas known as sites of special scientific interest that are important for wildlife, habitats or geology.

MPs approved the proposals in the House of Commons by 298 votes to 261.

What has been the reaction to the outcome of the vote?

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have complained that the measures were not allocated any time for debate in the Commons chamber and the regulations were passed after a deferred vote away from the main proceedings.

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s Shadow Energy and Climate Secretary, said: "It is frankly shabby of the Government to sneak through these weak fracking rules without any proper Parliamentary debate.

"Ministers had previously conceded that there should be the tougher safeguards that Labour has been calling for to protect drinking water sources and sensitive parts of our countryside like National Parks. Now they've abandoned those promises.

"We should have a moratorium on fracking in Britain until we can be sure it is safe and won't present intolerable risks to our environment.

"Neither MPs or the public have received these assurances yet ministers are ignoring people's legitimate concerns and imposing fracking on communities."

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron tweeted: "It is an utter travesty that the govt one week sign a landmark agreement to tackle climate and then allow fracking in National Parks & SSSIs".

Campaigners have concerns over fracking. Credit: PA

How have environmental groups reacted to the vote?

Greenpeace said the rules show the Government has broken its promise on protecting special landscapes while Friends of the Earth warned fracking put drinking water and national parks at risk

Fiona Howie, chief executive of the Campaign for National Parks, said it was "really disappointing that the regulations had been approved, especially as Parliament had not been given the chance to consider the concerns that had been raised".

Paul Wilkinson, of The Wildlife Trusts, said: "This Government's aggressive drive for fracking is showing blatant disregard for our precious protected places and the need for urgent action on climate change. This is a risky, unnecessary and shameful decision."

Read more: What is fracking and why is it so controversial?