BOLTON Council will oppose any attempts to carry out fracking in the borough, its leader has vowed.

Cllr Cliff Morris stated the intention at a full council meeting on Wednesday night.

But he warned that this stance would not prevent the government using Bolton land for the controversial drilling process — as they could bypass local councils' opposition. 

The announcement comes a week after the government gave the go-ahead for tests to be carried out in the borough, including parts of Smithills, Horwich, Blackrod and Astley Bridge.

A licence will be offered to the firm Osprey to perform the exploratory tests, with the government also having earmarked the whole of the rest of the borough as having the potential for shale gas extraction.

At the meeting, Cllr Morris said: "The council has not received any requests from landowners to carry out this work on their land.

"If the government wanted they could come and carry out fracking without our permission.

"The environmental impact of fracking needs to be fully considered.

"Our starting point will be to form opposition to any fracking proposals in our borough."

The leader was asked by Liberal Democrat Cllr Andrew Martin whether he agreed it was lamentable that the Conservatives were abandoning the green agenda without their former junior coalition partner.

Cllr Morris responded: "Who gave the first licences for fracking? It was the Liberal Democrat minister of the time.

"The green agenda being abandoned was already abandoned, by you."

Criticisms were also levelled at new Bolton West MP, the Conservative Chris Green, for voicing no clear opinion on fracking.

Cllr Silvester, for Horwich North East, asked if the leader would agree that Mr Green should stop "sitting on the fence" on the issue, given a lot of the sites earmarked for exploratory tests are contained in his constituency.

Mr Green has told The Bolton News that he has no ideological position on fracking, but said his constituents were his priority, over his party's wishes.

He said: "There is a strong future for shale gas in the UK but it has to be done in the right locations and we have to make sure that the health and safety of residents is not affected."

Last week's announcement came as part of the Oil and Gas Authority’s (OGA) 14th licensing round for oil and gas exploration — with the area of land in the west of Bolton one of 27 offered across the UK.