CAMPAIGNERS are set to fight moves to allow fracking to take place in the New Forest National Park.
The National Park Authority (NPA) is likely to press the Government to exclude the area from the controversial practice, which has sparked widespread protests across the UK.
It follows the revelation that cities, national parks and even urban commons will be opened up for fracking and other forms of ex-ploration.
Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.
The controversial process has been blamed for causing mini-earthquakes in Lancashire.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change is set to announce a new round of onshore oil and gas exploration licensing, with about two-thirds of Britain potentially on offer to energy companies.
But the NPA is poised to make a stand in a bid to protect the ancient landscape.
NPA member cllr David Harrison said: “Most members of the Authority assumed that the Government would exempt national parks from rules that will make it easier for fracking licences to be given.
“Now it seems we’ll have to start lobbying Government ministers and remind them of the very special environment that we’re helping to look after.
“The New Forest should be one of the last places in the country where fracking is permitted.
"It would be a mistake to think that the planning process gives the New Forest enough protection against environmental threats on this scale.”
Graham Baker from the New Forest Association (NFA) added: “National parks are our finest landscapes and we oppose any large-scale development.
“The NFA is sending a delegate to the forthcoming Hampshire County Council symposium on fracking to gain further knowledge.”
Julian Lewis, Tory MP for New Forest East, said the forest should be a fracking-free zone until the technique had been tested in less sensitive parts of the country.
“I’d certainly like to see the New Forest excluded from fracking until it’s been proven to be safe and un-obtrusive,” he said.
Campaigners have launched a report entitled Are We Fit to Frack? The document calls for extraction exclusion zones in environmentally sensitive areas, including national parks.