MPs have voted in favour of allowing companies to use hydraulic fracturing or fracking to extract shale gas from underneath National Parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other protected areas.

Gas explorers will be able to drill holes outside the protected areas and then cut horizontal shafts to access reserves beneath the parks following the vote, which was won by 298 to 261.

Subsequently, the Oil & Gas Authority issued 159 permits as part of the 14th onshore oil and gas licencing round.

Oonagh Werngren, Operations Director at trade body Oil & Gas UK, said: “Energy security must remain of paramount importance to the UK, and the natural gas we discover today, both onshore and offshore, will play a key role in powering our future economy.”

MPs criticised

Environmental campaigners criticised the UK Government for bringing the vote.

Hannah Martin, an 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.”

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Rose Dickinson added: “If last week’s Paris deal is to mean anything more than warm words, ministers must abandon their short-sighted enthusiasm for fracking and give full backing to energy efficiency and renewable power.”

> See a map showing where the licences have been awarded