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Concern at u-turn on fracking protections in Infrastructure Bill

12 February 2015

CPRE has today expressed disappointment that the Government has gone back on its previous commitment and chosen not to implement amendments ensuring greater safeguards on fracking in the Infrastructure Bill.

Nick Clack, senior energy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), today expressed concern that the Government has rejected amendments to the Infrastructure Bill to ensure the necessary strengthening of fracking safeguards.

Two weeks ago the Government accepted a number of amendments, including those ruling out fracking in and under National Parks and requiring an environmental impact assessment. Peers in the House of Lords subsequently unpicked these and other safeguards by supporting the Government's weaker version, but it was hoped that the Government, at the insistence of MPs from across the House, would reinstate strong protections.

In a short debate in the Commons last night, these protections were not adopted, with ministers suggesting that it ‘might not be practical’ to ban fracking under as well as in all Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks 'without unduly constraining the industry'.

Nick Clack, senior energy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said:

“The Government claimed last week to have introduced strong legal safeguards on fracking to protect the countryside and communities. Yesterday ministers undermined that claim and further eroded public confidence.

“It is both disappointing and concerning that the Government has chosen not to reinstate in legislation important controls such as the explicit requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment, or the outright ban on fracking under National Parks and other protected areas they previously committed to. This calls into question the Government’s commitment to so-called world class fracking regulation.

“We are also concerned that the definition of fracking introduced by the Government, based on the volume of fracking fluid, could enable companies to bypass the limited legal controls that have been retained.

“As the Government’s changes to the safeguards, which have now become law, significantly weaken them, further strengthening of the legal requirements are therefore still necessary to ensure robust protections for the countryside and communities, and to provide members of the public with the reassurance they need.”

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