CAMPAIGNERS are furious MPs backed fracking plans which they claim could damage the South Downs National Park.

New rules voted in yesterday could allow fracking deep below Sussex beauty spots like the South Downs National Park and the Ashdown Forest.

The regulations will mean fracking could take place three-quarters of a mile, or 1,200 metres, below national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, world heritage sites and other wildlife conservation areas as long as the machinery used for drilling is outside the boundary.

The vote was put to the Commons by Amber Rudd, secretary of state for energy and climate change and MP for Hastings and Rye, in what campaigners claimed was a U-turn on a pre-election pledge to ban to drill on national parks outright.

The Campaign for Rural England's Sussex branch said fracking would have a "grave" and long lasting environmental impact, that it would disturb rock formations under the South Downs and lead to contaminated water supplies.

Kia Trainor, the director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England's Sussex branch, said: "We are very disappointed MPs have not used their vote to protect our precious designated landscapes. Allowing fracking on the fringes of and underneath national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty will affect their setting and conflict with the very purpose of their designation."

MP Caroline Lucas, who voted against the plan, said she would be prepared to protest again against fracking.

The Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, who was arrested in 2013 for protesting against Balcombe and later cleared of any charges, said: "I know the people across Sussex will continue to campaign against fracking – and I look forward to working with them in their fight.

"The decision to allow drilling under protected areas as well as everywhere else is so deeply disappointing. Not only does fracking fly in the face of the climate science but mounting evidence suggests it won’t lower bills."

The news comes after a global agreement to reduce climate change was made at a conference in Paris.

Ms Lucas added: "If the Government is to match its rhetoric on the climate deal ministers must urgently rethink their entire approach to energy policy. To have any realistic chance of keeping global warming to well under two degrees we need to ban fracking in the UK."

Rose Dickinson, from Friends of the Earth, said: "Ministers should be ramping up investment in renewable power, rather than trying to breathe new life into outdated, climate-wrecking fossil fuels."

Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove, who also voted against the plans, said it was clear the Government was favouring fracking over sustainable energy.

He said: "I'm worried they are rushing to exploit the Downs while blocking urban generation like solar and heat exchange technology. It flies in the face of common sense."

Sussex has one of the highest percentages of protected areas in the country. Earlier this year a study said South Downs rocks were suitable for fracking.