The secondary legislation on groundwater and protected areas was approved in the House of Commons with a vote of 298 in favour and 261 against, which is a higher margin than the Government majority. This puts to bed the Infrastructure Act 2015, which gives the industry the right of underground access for exploring hydrocarbons below 300m.
The proposals, first set out in July, would only allow fracking 1,200m below national parks, Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads and World Heritage Sites. The drill rigs would have to be positioned outside the boundaries of the protected areas. Sites of Special Scientific Interest, which are designated to protect wildlife or geology, are not mentioned.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats have complained that the measures were not allocated any time for debate in the Commons chamber and the regulations were passed after a deferred vote away from the main proceedings.