WARRINGTON Borough Council (WBC) is facing renewed calls to declare itself an anti-fracking borough from MP Helen Jones.

The Labour politician fears it will become easier for drilling companies to succeed with future applications.

No fracking has been taking place in the town but planning permission exists at three locations for activities related to the extraction of unconventional gas.

The Doe Green site in Penketh is operational for the extraction of coal bed methane, while land in Woolston, which is adjacent to the M6 junction 21, was granted planning permission for the exploration of boreholes in 2010.

Land off Waterworks Lane in Winwick also has planning permission.

However, if any of these sites wished to convert to fracking, they would need additional planning permission.

Warrington North MP Mrs Jones, who has voted against fracking in Parliament, says she will continue to oppose the controversial practice.

She added: “I remain of the belief that there should be a moratorium on fracking because the case for the procedure has not been adequately made and the technology does not have sufficient safeguards.

“I call, again, on the council to declare itself an anti-fracking borough.

“Sadly, in the past, Tories here in Warrington have welcomed fracking companies saying the town would be open for their business.

“The Government is pro-fracking and, unfortunately, I fear it is likely to become easier for drilling companies to succeed with their applications in the future.

“A series of tremors, seven years ago, prompted tough regulations which requires the suspension of fracking when low levels of seismic activity are detected.

“The Government now seem to be saying that the trigger levels can be adjusted upwards.

“Any relaxation of the regulations will speed up exploratory fracking which is in line with the Government’s determination to push fracking at any cost.”

WBC says it is required to make objective decisions on all planning applications.

A spokesman added: “The local authority has recently reviewed our preparedness should a planning application for shale gas extraction be received, as the impact of a planning application is often substantial across a number of services.

“The aim is to be open and transparent ensuring our responsibilities and duties are properly undertaken.

“The council will publicise any planning applications it receives, so people have the opportunity to get involved and have their say.

“The council will publicise the fact that it has received a planning application by placing a press notice, erecting site notices and writing directly to people who live close by.

“The Government has identified potential changes to the planning process and they are presently carrying out consultation on the subject area.”

Cheshire Pension Fund’s committee comprises four elected members each from Cheshire West & Chester Council and Cheshire East Council, one elected member from both Halton Borough Council and Warrington Borough Council, and one employee representative.

WBC’s deputy council leader Cllr Russ Bowden sits on the committee.

Figures highlighted by Platform's divestment campaigners claim the Cheshire Pension Fund totals £4,167,287,023 – with fracking investment coming to £46,902,864, and funds going into companies including Shell, BP, Chevron and Exxon.

However, Cheshire Pension Fund has dismissed the 'inaccurate data'.

It says its fund, as of March 31 2017, totalled £4.98 billion.

It adds that it does not recognise the fracking investment figure of £46,902,864.

As of March 31 2017, the fund had direct investments in oil, gas and energy companies totalling £9,350,330.

It also had indirect investments in oil, gas and energy companies totalling £82,755,884.

A spokeswoman said: “Indirect means that we do not hold any shares in these companies.

“They are a part of collectively managed funds that includes these companies in the funds’ mix.

“We do not currently have an investment policy that addresses fracking specifically.

“Overall, the Cheshire Pension Fund recognises there are potential long-term investment risks in holding investments in carbon/fossil fuel assets.

“We received a report last year that looked at the 'footprint' of these investments and we continue to monitor this information.

“Cheshire Pension Fund also supports the work of the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, which engages with these companies to push for an orderly transition to low carbon business models consistent with the Paris Agreement, and to address capital spending on high-cost resource extraction.”