THE Government has responded to claims from a Warrington Green Party member that it is trying to 'fast-track fracking in the north'.

Party member Sarah Hayes, who stood as Warrington North candidate in May's General Election, raised her fear last month, along with concerns on the impact the process could have on 'earthquakes, air quality and children's health'.

The Government has reaffirmed its position in supporting the industry in a 'safe and sustainable' way.

But the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) insists it wants communities to play a key role in helping to safely develop the shale industry.

It also confirmed the intention to make sure residents have their say on fracking applications and highlighted the ongoing commitment to working with the Environment Agency, along with other regulators, to ensure all operators abide by the 'strict rules' governing the industry.

A DECC spokesman added: "The Government continues to support the development of the shale industry in the UK, which has got the potential to power economic growth, create tens of thousands of jobs and provide a new domestic energy resource, making us less reliant on imports from abroad."

Any operator wanting to undertake fracking needs to apply for an environmental permit, conduct an environmental impact assessment and apply for planning permission, which is open to full public consultation.