The North York Moors National Park will be protected from fracking unless there are “exceptional circumstances”, ministers have announced.
The policy was unveiled on Monday as the latest bidding process for shale companies seeking licences to explore for oil and gas was opened.
The Government has committed to going “all out for shale”, claiming development of the gas and oil resource is needed to improve energy security, boost jobs and the economy and bring down energy prices.
But opponents say it causes disruption and damaging development in the countryside, can cause minor earthquakes and the risk of water pollution, and that exploiting new oil and gas resources is not compatible with tackling climate change.
Ministers have unveiled new guidance which means applications for developments in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Sites and the Broads should be refused other than in “exceptional circumstances and in the public interest”.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change said where an application in these areas is refused and the developer launches an appeal, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will consider whether to make the final decision himself to ensure the policy is being properly applied.
Business and energy minister Matthew Hancock said: “Unlocking shale gas in Britain has the potential to provide us with greater energy security, jobs and growth.
“We must act carefully, minimising risks, to explore how much of our large resource can be recovered to give the UK a new home-grown source of energy.
“The new guidance published will protect Britain’s great National Parks and outstanding landscapes, building on the existing rules that ensure operational best practices are implemented and robustly enforced.”
The licences which can be applied for provide the first step to start drilling but do not give an absolute agreement to drill. Planning permission and permits from the Environment Agency will be required for further drilling.