ANTI-FRACKING campaigners in Yorkshire have reacted angrily after MPs voted to allow the controversial mining method to be used in the region’s national parks.
Energy companies will not be able to put drilling rigs in national parks but the rules will allow them to drill horizontally from sites on their borders as long as it is more than 1,200m below ground.
The same rules will also apply to other protected areas such as world heritage sites and areas of outstanding national beauty.
The energy industry insists fracking is a safe method of mining previously inaccessible reserves of gas but environmental campaigners argue it poses huge risks of contamination to the environment.
The Coalition Government promised a complete ban on fracking in protected areas but the Conservative administration set out revised rules following the General Election which have now been passed by the Commons.
Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg, who was deputy prime minister in the last government, said: “"I am dismayed the government want to allow fracking to take place in our national parks. In my own constituency, the Peak District is an area of outstanding beauty and value and these areas must be preserved.
“This is a complete reversal on a protection that the Liberal Democrats put in place under the coalition."
Campaigners in Ryedale are currently trying to persuade North Yorkshire County Council to reject a proposal to carry out fracking at Kirby Misperton which lies several miles outside the North York Moors National Park.
David Davis, from the Frack Free Ryedale campaign group, said: "This vote means that protected areas such as the North York Moors National Park, the Howardian Hills AONB and numerous SSSIs can now have fracking wells just outside their borders, with all the extra traffic, noise, air, light and water pollution this will create.
“This will have a very damaging effect not only on the protected areas themselves, but also the local visitor economy."
The Campaign for National Parks added its voice to the criticism, describing the decision as “disappointing”.
Fracking involves the pumping of sand, water and some chemicals at high pressure into rock formations deep underground to free trapped gas.
The Government has given strenuous backing to fracking in the UK while the industry itself has tried to encourage communities to embrace the idea by promising them financial benefits from wells dug in their areas.
Fracking is credited with dramatically lowering energy costs in the US and giving a major boost to the country’s economy.
Industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas said: “The onshore oil industry takes the protection of our natural world seriously, and we have a long established track record of developing oil and gas fields successfully and safely in environmentally sensitive areas.
“It is important to recognise that any future hydraulic fracturing for shale will take place several kilometres underground and as an industry we take all possible steps to minimise our impact on the environment and the surrounding communities.”
Yorkshire is considered a prime target for fracking because of the presence of a geological formation known as the Bowland Shale which is thought likely to contain large amounts of trapped gas.