Campaigners have expressed concern after it emerged fracking could take place underneath the Peak District National Park.
The Government has announced that the controversial practice will be allowed to happen beneath national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.
Energy companies will not be allowed to base their fracking operations on the ground within the protected zones but instead will be able to station their drilling rigs just outside and then drill horizontally underneath them.
The news comes despite assurances from the Government last July that such areas would be protected from fracking.
A spokesman for the Friends of the Peak District campaign group said: “We are deeply disturbed by this latest U-turn.
“It is further evidence that the Government is prepared to ride rough shod over the concerns of the public who have asked for stricter safeguards to be put in place to protect our most beautiful countryside, not undermine the legislation that they previously committed to.
“Even if built on the boundary, the visual landscape and additional transport could still have a considerable negative impact on the Peak District National Park.”
Fracking involves blasting water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into shale rock formations to release the gas held inside.
Campaigners fear the process could trigger small earthquakes.
Energy minister Amber Rugg told MPs on Thursday: “In the case of areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks, given their size and dispersion, it might not be practical to guarantee that fracking will not take place under them in all cases without unduly constraining the industry.”
Labour’s shadow energy minister, Tom Greatrex, said allowing fracking under protected areas could lead them to be “ringed by shale gas operators.” He added: “It is vital for groundwater, and sources of drinking water, to be properly protected.”