MOVES to extract shale gas in the region by fracking have moved a step closer after Government agencies dismissed key arguments of its opponents.

Environment Agency chairman Chris Smith said fears over the controversial extraction method of causing gas to flow out of the ground by injecting sand, water and chemicals into rock had been exaggerated.

Lord Smith said fracking should be allowed in national parks like the North York Moors, which is among a number of areas in northern England where drilling firms believe there are trillions of cubic feet of shale gas which could be recovered.

Gas drilling company Dart Energy, which has a licence to explore for shale gas in a large area covering 15,000sq km across the North of England, said in January that it could begin fracking in North Yorkshire in the next two years.

Lord Smith said the visual impact of fracking would be "very limited" if managed correctly in the right location.

He added: “We aren't yet ready to see 100 per cent of our energy requirements being produced from renewables.

“Over the next ten to 20 years we are going to have to use fossil fuels still and it's much better to use gas than coal.”

Lord Smith's comments came as a Public Health England report concluded the potential risks to public health near shale gas extraction sites would be low if the sites and properly run and regulated.