Government completes U-turn to allow fracking under national parks, amid Tory rebellion

MPs have voted by 298 – 261 in favour of fracking under national parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), World Heritage Sites, and Groundwater Protection Zones.

The vote saw a number of Conservative MPs rebel against the Government – although the full breakdown of how MPs voted is yet to be released. Greenpeace said the Government has broken its promise, having previously committed to an “outright ban” on fracking in protected areas.

Hannah Martin, energy campaigner at Greenpeace, said: "What we have seen today is the Government breaking its promise and forcing through regulations which will allow fracking underneath some of the most fragile and treasured landscapes in Britain. These areas have been protected for a reason: stunning areas like the Peak District, the North York Moors and the South Downs.

"And it’s clear that the Tories can’t even convince some of their own MPs that fracking under national parks and other areas of natural beauty is a good idea – so why should the public believe them?"

Conservative MP Andrew Turner, whose Isle of Wight constituency is under threat of fracking, said: "I voted against the proposals. Although the Government has listened to concerns raised and made a number of concessions, I do not believe that they go far enough to protect environmentally sensitive areas such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty."

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, whose constituency covers the South Downs, tweeted: “I oppose fracking in & on edges/under our National Parks & AONBs & have voted against this”.

Martin continued: "It’s great to see MPs across the political spectrum – including Conservative MPs – are in step with public opinion on fracking and have resolutely opposed this proposal. They share the concerns of many of their constituents, thousands of whom emailed their MPs over the last 24 hours, that the Government hasn’t made the environmental or economic case for fracking, or that it has a proper regulatory regime in place to protect these areas.

"The UK government has just participated in a historic climate agreement in Paris, but if it’s to hold up its end of the bargain it has to rethink its support for fracking and back safe, cheap, clean energy instead.

"As a result of today’s vote, these places can now be fracked in all but name. Whether the fracking infrastructure is set up just outside the boundaries of national parks is a moot point: these previously protected areas could be ringed by drilling rigs, floodlights and compressors – and play host to thousands of lorry movements – meaning the most precious landscapes in our country are blighted by noise, air and light pollution."