Ministers announce fracking ban in National Parks, AONBs and SSSIs

The Government has formally committed to an outright ban on fracking in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in a move which strengthens existing policy.

Currently the practice is allowed in those designated areas but only in “exceptional circumstances”.

Climate change minister Amber Rudd made that announcement on Monday during the report stage and third reading of the Infrastructure Bill in the Commons.

During the proceedings MPs voted against a proposed 30-month moratorium on fracking as urged by the all-party Commons Environmental Audit Committee.

MPs also agreed to amend the planned legislation with a series of tests, which must be undertaken before fracking can take place. These include baseline monitoring of emissions, environmental assessments and safeguards where drinking water aquifers could be at risk.

The Bill will now return to the Lords where Peers will consider the Commons amendments before the legislation goes for Royal Assent.

During Monday’s deliberations in the Commons, proposed amendments to the Bill with provisions for a third party community right of appeal and, separately, the abolition of the Planning Inspectorate were not taken forward.

The Bill includes a number of planning and planning-related measures. These include provisions for Mayoral Development Orders, a regime for the deemed discharge of certain planning conditions, changes to the arrangements for handling nationally significant infrastructure projects, measures surrounding zero-carbon homes and a new-look Highways Agency.

Also involved are moves to reform the Land Registry and changes in the regime for dealing with public sector land assets

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