Ministers have unveiled plans to prevent hydraulic fracturing – better known as fracking – from taking place on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and other protected areas.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) made the proposals as part of its consultation on regulations for shale gas exploration and extraction.

In addition to SSSIs, the UK Government also added Natura 2000 sites – which are protected at a European Union level – to the list of areas that would be protected from fracking, which already includes National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said: “People should have confidence in these protections and in this vital industry, which could create more than 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.”

Environmental campaigners angered

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Rose Dickinson said: “The Government has completely fudged plans to protect our drinking water aquifers and national parks.
“While ruling out the frankly ludicrous idea of fracking straight through drinking water aquifers, Government plans will still allow fracking in protected areas that surround and feed these aquifers with water.”

Greenpeace campaigner Hannah Martin added: “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.”

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