Berwick MP slammed by rival after vote on fracking under national parks

Left, Julie Porksen and, right, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP.
Left, Julie Porksen and, right, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP.

Berwick’s Tory MP has been criticised by a political rival for her support for fracking under national parks, but hit back claiming ‘a lack of understanding’.

It follows the vote in the House of Commons before Christmas in which MPs agreed that fracking could take place at depths of more than 1,200m under national parks so long as the drilling takes place from outside the protected areas and not within 1km of park boundaries.

Opposition parties and campaigners criticised the lack of a Commons debate, while also accusing Tory Ministers of a U-turn as they previously pledged an outright ban.

However, the Northumberland National Park Authority (NNPA) has said it does not expect fracking to be an issue for the park.

Liberal Democrat Julie Pörksen, who is against fracking and stood against Anne-Marie Trevelyan in the 2015 General Election, criticised the Conservative MP for being ‘lobby fodder’ and questioned her stance given her ‘extreme objection’ to windfarms.

Ms Pörksen said: “Sadly Berwick’s MP has lost the capacity to consider her constituency when she votes.

“The potential environmental and economic damage to our countryside and national parks is huge – these protected spaces are invaluable and one of our unique attractions for Northumbrian tourism.”

But Mrs Trevelyan said that the Lib Dems ‘have not understood’ the vote, which will ‘allow fracking pipework to travel under national park land’ much deeper than underground watercourses.

“I want to see the UK reduce its dependence on dirty coal power in favour of cleaner fossil fuels, nuclear and appropriate renewable energy sources,” she added. “I hope the Lib Dems also want a greener future, but one which ensures we can keep the lights on and our businesses working and employing as many as possible.”

A spokesman for the NNPA said: “There are currently no Government licence blocks in the immediate vicinity of the national park and research suggests the geology of the Northumberland National Park would not make it a priority area for fracking.”

He added: “The decision by the Government to protect National Parks from surface works is welcome ,but we think it is now essential that the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework is amended to make it clear that hydraulic fracturing is not allowed within these national treasures.

“While Northumberland National Park is not expected to be a target area, it is an issue for our fellow national park family members and we wholly support the National Parks England response to the DECC (Department for Energy and Climate Change) consultation which calls for a stronger, clearer and more robust mechanism for restrictions on existing licences to prevent fracking within the protected areas.”