LAND in Warrington is being tipped to be 'undoubtedly affected' by fracking after the Government handed out licences for gas and oil exploration in the region.

The 93 onshore licences are set to allow firms to explore on 159 blocks of land across the country, including sites surrounding the town.

Warrington is currently home to IGas' exploratory coal bed methane Doe Green site off Farnworth Road in Penketh, as well as the firm's test drilling site close to the Thelwall Viaduct in Woolston.

But the licences have sparked concerns from many across the town who believe fracking in the area is now closer than ever.

The council said it is 'obliged' to consider fracking as part of its local planning framework, which will be subject to 'extensive' public consultation.

A spokesman added: "Any fracking applications would be subject to a formal, detailed planning application.

"It would also be examined by regulators, such as the Environment Agency and the health and safety executive."

But despite the message Warrington and Halton Green Party believes the impact of the controversial practice in the town is inevitable.

A party statement said: "We remain completely opposed to fracking and we are appalled by the granting of the licences for fracking by the Government.

"The concentration of licences is in the north and will undoubtedly affect Warrington in some way.

"We are hugely disappointed that these licences will include national parks – it is inconceivable that this will be allowed to happen."

Warrington South's Conservative MP David Mowat confirmed he is supporting fracking on both 'energy security' and 'environmental' grounds.

He added: "Currently we import gas from countries such as Qatar and Russia.

"Securing our own supply could make a significant contribution to our country's energy security.

"Furthermore, replacing coal with gas would represent a huge contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions.

"In the UK it would make a more significant impact than tripling our supply of renewables.

"It is a little known secret that there has been a drilling site in Warrington for the past 5 years. There have been no issues to my knowledge."

Liberal Democrat leader Bob Barr said the town needs to be certain that chemical and water leakage is prevented.

"New licences for exploratory drilling for potential fracking operations have been granted in areas surrounding Warrington in addition to those already allocated in the town," he added.

"Fracking is a controversial and highly divisive means of extracting gas, a fossil fuel, from shale beds a mile down or more.

"The Liberal Democrat approach is that we would prefer more investment in carbon-free renewables, than relying on this carbon reduced alternative to coal.

"However, if shale gas extraction can be shown not to be any more environmentally harmful than other new energy sources it should be considered.

"We prefer to see locally extracted gas being used than relying on imports from unstable or hostile states.

"We also need to ensure that traffic generated does not add to Warrington's already unacceptable congestion and that areas of highly valued landscape are not spoilt."

Warrington North MP Helen Jones has again called on Warrington to declare itself an anti-fracking borough.