The British Parliament has approved proposals that would allow fracking below national parks, world heritage sites and other designated areas of natural beauty.

The measure, which is opposed by environmental groups, was endorsed Wednesday by 298 votes to 261 and paves the way to more extensive fracking three-fourths of a mile below parks.

The fracking process involves pumping huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to split open rocks to allow oil and gas to flow.

It has produced major economic benefits in some countries, but also raised a number of fears, including that the chemicals could spread to water supplies.