A CONTROVERSIAL move to allow fracking in the UK has been criticised by Worcester's Green Party.

As your Worcester News revealed before Christmas, MPs voted by 298 to 261 to allow the digging to take place under national parks.

The ruling means fracking for shale gas can now take place 1,200 metres below national parks and other protected sites, with contractors able to apply for licences to do the work.

The vote means World Heritage Sites like Bath and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB) could potentially be included, which could implicate areas such as Malvern Hills and the Cotswolds, although no interest has been expressed yet on a national exploratory drilling map.

Louis Stephen, the chair of Worcester Green Party, said: "It's crazy that the Government encouraged more use of fossil fuels like fracked gas literally in the same week that it cut subsidies to renewable energy sources such as domestic solar panels.

"The Government just doesn’t get it."

Some fellow members of his party have pointed to December's record mild temperatures, when it hit 16C in some parts of the county, as a cause for concern.

Councillor Neil Laurenson, a Worcester Green Party member, said: "We've been experiencing unusually high temperatures for this time of year, and this trend will continue if we keep extracting fossil fuels.

"The Government has demonstrated through its actions that it's more concerned about short-term profit than our collective welfare."

The drill rigs would have to be positioned outside the boundaries of the protected areas under the rules.

In January the Government said there would be an outright ban on fracking in protected areas.

But that was under the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition and in July the new Conservative administration unveiled fresh guidelines allowing it, subject to backing from MPs.

All six Worcestershire MPs were among those supporting the Government, pointing to the potentially huge benefits it could bring.

The USA's fracking revolution has caused natural gas prices to drop 47 percent compared to what the price would have been prior to the fracking revolution in 2013, according to independent experts.

No fracking is currently taking place in the UK but more than 100 sites are expected to be granted licences, with most in Northern England.

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman added: "The UK has one of the best track records in the world for protecting our environment while developing our industries.

"These regulations will get this vital industry moving while protecting our environment and people."

Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom has said there had already been "enormous debate" on the subject, during which many concerns have been addressed.