Ministers will announce a major climbdown on fracking today as they bring in strict controls to protect vast swathes of the British countryside.
Shale gas development will be all but banned in National Parks and other protected countryside – and permitted only in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
The move from the Department for Energy and Climate Change is likely to be seen as an attempt to head off a potential revolt in Middle England over fracking in the run up to next year’s election.
The move tears up bolder suggestions from ministers last year that more than 40 per cent of Britain could be opened up for fracking – as the restricted areas cover huge parts of the county, especially in the Tory heartlands of Southern England.
The announcement is in sharp contrast to the rhetoric of former Energy Minister Michael Fallon, who was moved to Defence Secretary in this month’s reshuffle.
Last year he said fracking would take place in vast swathes of ‘Dorset all the way along Hampshire, Sussex, East Sussex, West Sussex, all the way perhaps a bit into Surrey and even into my county of Kent. It’s right there.’