Fracking rules to protect national parks from surface drilling


Fracking wells would not be drilled from the surface in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty under new proposals from the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Sites of special scientific interest would also see a ban on surface drilling under the plan, which has been put out for consultation by ministers.

Greenpeace said the announcement would do little to combat pollution from wider fracking activity and insisted the move was aimed at calming potentially rebellious MPs and not protecting the landscape.

Announcing the consultation, Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said: "The UK has one of the best track records in the world when it comes to protecting our environment while developing our industries.

"We have the right protections in place to ensure that fracking can go ahead safely without risk to our most beautiful and important natural sites.

"People should have confidence in these protections and in this vital industry which could create over 60,000 jobs and be worth billions of pounds to our economy - that is why we are providing further reassurance for our most valued areas."

Greenpeace campaigner Hannah Martin said: "This announcement might have banned drilling rigs from littering the landscape, but the Government isn't banning fracking pollution spilling over into our most fragile and treasured countryside.

"Some of England's special scenery and nature reserves could still be ringed by fracking rigs bringing light, air, water and noise pollution to areas that should be completely protected.

"This seems like a statement designed simply to mollify concerned backbenchers but lacking the substance to actually protect the countryside from fracking pollution."

The new proposal would develop rules put into law as part of the Infrastructure Act 2015, which includes restrictions on fracking in protected groundwater source areas and other protected areas.

The proposed regulations would make clear what surface activity could take place in protected areas while not preventing horizontal underground drilling into such areas.