The UK Government has announced fracking can take place under national parks.
Under draft regulations set out by DECC, hydraulic fracturing can also take place below 1,200 metres in Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, the Broads and World Heritage Sites.
However, fracking cannot be conducted from wells that are drilled in the surface of the areas, which was announced earlier this year.
DECC said the regulations would protect drinking water, which is not normally found below 400 metres.
Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said: “The UK has one of the best track records in the world when it comes to protecting our environment while also developing our industries – and we’ve brought that experience to bear on the shale gas protections.
“We need more secure, home grown energy supplies and shale gas and oil have a vital role to play – much better that we use what we have at home than relying on supplies from volatile foreign imports.
“This industry will be developed safely with world class environmental protections, creating jobs and delivering better energy security while safeguarding of some of our most precious landscapes.”
Enviornmental groups are however “outraged” by the decision.
Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Rose Dickinson said: “The sooner government gets serious about renewables and energy efficiency, the safer we will be – and the quicker we can get on with addressing the urgent risk of climate change.”
Greenpeace accused the government of watering down the legal protection extended to National Parks.
Daisy Sands from the green group said: “With a few days before recess, this looks like nothing but a blatant attempt to bypass democracy to sneak this deeply unpopular policy in through the back door while no one is looking. Ministers have given concerned citizens up and down the country no opportunity to voice their opposition to the plans that could ruin the countryside, contaminate the water supply and have a devastating impact on the climate.”
The news follows an interim report published by the Shale Gas Task Force yesterday, which called for tougher regulations on fracking in the UK.