CAMPAIGNERS in Dorset are gearing up for a battle after controversial proposals to allow fracking beneath protected beauty spots were approved by MPs.

The regulations, which permit hydraulic fracturing to extract shale gas three-quarters of a mile (1,200m) below national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, world heritage sites, the Broads and certain groundwater areas, were approved by 298 votes to 261.

Regulations ban fracking at the surface of these areas and wells cannot be sited within these areas.

There have been accusations that ministers "sneaked" the move through a "parliamentary backdoor".

Labour and the Liberal Democrats complained the measures were not allocated any time for debate in the Commons chamber and the regulations were passed after a deferred vote away from main proceedings.

The vote does not mean fracking will begin in Dorset.

Earlier this year the Oil and Gas Authority announced a formal consultation on 132 areas where licences to drill for oil and gas had been applied for.

Eight of these ‘block’ sites were within Purbeck, with two of them stretching into neighbouring East Dorset. However, it remains unclear whether any of these blocks will attract applications to frack for shale oil or gas.

A spokesman for West and South Dorset Green Party said: "We have a commitment to oppose any applications to frack anywhere in Dorset.

"Fracking is dangerous, it is anti-social and it's the very opposite of what world leaders are trying to do – to end dependence on fossil fuels."

South West Green MEP Molly Scott Cato added: “In the South West, we have a number of areas that are protected by national and, in some cases, international law. It is also a region that relies heavily on tourism, so this decision could prove extremely costly not just for our precious environment and landscapes but also for our rural economy."

South Dorset MP Richard Drax said: “I fully understand and appreciate people's concerns about fracking, but the government is creating a regulatory regime that provides clear, strong protections for the environment. With these in place, I think it is right that we explore and make use of shale gas and oil. The opportunity to extract this energy, as well as to secure jobs and investment, cannot be ignored."


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