A COUNCILLOR is leading the charge to stop the Government taking away local planning powers for fracking applications.

Horwich North East Cllr Richard Silvester will be asking a meeting of the full council to oppose any plans to strip the authority of the ability to block planning applications for the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing.

The move comes after leaked documents suggested that fracking wells could be classified as ‘nationally significant infrastructure’ and mean decisions on whether to approve or reject shale gas drilling sites could be made by unelected planning inspectors.

Cllr Silvester, who is putting forward a motion to oppose such a move at Wednesday’s meeting, said: “I happen to be completely opposed to fracking however even if you were in support of it, I am sure that you would agree that it should be locally elected members of Bolton Council and specifically members of the planning committee who should make these decisions.

“The whole of the Bolton borough is now covered for potential fracking operators to apply for licences to drill wells.

“Suppose an operator applied for a licence on a vacant piece of land nearby or within a residential area and was successful because a Government Inspector took the decision instead of the council.

“We would have the prospect of tankers carrying radioactive waste water through the streets of Bolton without the council having any say in the matter.

“It is quite frankly a frightening prospect if the Government decides to go ahead with these proposals.”

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.

Last year the Oil and Gas Authority announced 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.

Cllr Silvester added: “I hope that members of all parties on the Council will vote to send a message to the Government that we want to keep our planning powers of scrutiny and determination here in Bolton and that we are opposed to giving them up to an unelected official mandated by the Government.”

Cllr Silvester is seeking re-election for the Horwich North East ward in next month's local elections.

Also standing are Jeffrey Armstrong (UKIP), Anne Galloway (Conservative), Roderick Riesco (Green), and Stephen Rock (Lib Dem).