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Parks 'protected from fracking'
1:11pm Monday 28th July 2014 in Business
NATIONAL Parks in England will only be considered for fracking in exceptional circumstances, ministers have said.
The policy was unveiled as the bidding process for shale companies seeking licences to explore for oil and gas was opened.
The Government has committed to shale, claiming development of the gas and oil resource is needed to improve energy security, boost jobs and the economy and bring down energy prices.
However, opponents say it causes disruption and damaging development in the countryside, can cause minor earthquakes and the risk of water pollution, and that exploiting new oil and gas resources is not compatible with tackling climate change.
Ministers have unveiled new guidance which means applications for developments in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Sites and the Broads should be refused other than in "exceptional circumstances and in the public interest".
The Department of Energy and Climate Change said where an application in these areas is refused and the developer launches an appeal, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will consider whether to make the final decision himself to ensure the policy is being properly applied.
Matthew Hancock, business and energy minister, said: "Unlocking shale gas in the UK has the potential to provide us with greater energy security, jobs and growth.
"We must act carefully, minimising risks, to explore how much of our large resource can be recovered to give the UK a new home-grown source of energy.
"As one of the cleanest fossil fuels, shale gas can be a key part of the UK's answer to climate change and a bridge to a much greener future.
"The new guidance published today will protect the UK's great National Parks and outstanding landscapes, building on the existing rules that ensure operational best practices are implemented and robustly enforced.
"Ultimately, done right, speeding up shale will mean more jobs and opportunities for people and help ensure long-term economic and energy security for our country."
However, Greenpeace warned the National Parks policy would not appease campaigners against fracking.
Louise Hutchins, Greenpeace UK energy campaigner, added: "The Government has fired the starting gun on a reckless race for shale that could see fracking rigs go up across the British countryside, including in sensitive areas such as those covering major aquifers.
The licences provide the first step to start drilling but do not give an absolute agreement to drill.
Planning permission, permits from the Environment Agency and agreement from the Health and Safety Executive will be required for further drilling.