BOLTON Council has vowed not to allow exploratory drilling for fracking to take place on its land — after receiving a petition signed by 2,500 people against the controversial process.

The petition asked for the council to confirm its stance regarding fracking — also known as hydraulic fracturing — in its capacity as both a landowner and a planning authority.

While there are currently no fracking applications pending in Bolton, the Oil and Gas Authority announced in December that it had formally offered 159 licenses to firms for exploratory drilling across the country — including four blocks of land covering virtually all of the Bolton borough, which have been offered to operators Osprey and Hutton.

Responding to the petition, council chiefs have approved a report which states that the authority will not allow exploratory drilling or infrastructure associated with fracking on land it controls or owns.

As a planning authority, the council said it will “rigorously scrutinise” any planning applications for fracking.

Council chiefs slammed new measures introduced by the Government last September which mean that the Secretary of State can now intervene in the appeals process and “call-in” certain proposals for his own determination.

In its report, the council added that it will respond to any further proposals from Central Government to transfer decision making on fracking applications away from Bolton.

Hydraulic fracturing is a method of extracting shale gas from underground rocks by cracking them with strong jets made up of water, sand and chemicals.

Campaigners are against the process because they believe it carries potential risks — including the contamination of water supplies and soil and the creation of earth tremors.

But the government believes shale gas extraction will create thousands of jobs and deliver more secure energy supplies.

The new report reiterates the authority’s position after it vowed to oppose fracking on its land during a council meeting last October.

Darren Tickle of the Bolton Against Fracking group said he was pleased to have the council on side.

He said: “It is very pleasing to have Bolton Council with us and we have regular liaison meetings with them on this issue.

“It is crucial because what we are looking at in the North West is 5,500 drill pads servicing 33,000 wells — it is going to be a patchwork quilt of a gas field.

“This is what we are battling and so anything Bolton Council can do to help is appreciated.”

Cabinet member for the environment Cllr Nick Peel added: “We don’t feel there is enough information to address the number of concerns that people have.

“We need more research to show that fracking really is safe — so we do not support the opening up of Bolton for fracking.”