ENERGY company INEOS has confirmed it plans to frack for gas underneath the North York Moors National Park.

Tom Pickering of INEOS confirmed: “INEOS Shale believes in the proven safety of shale extraction. Therefore while drilling will never take place in a National Park we can frack underneath without impact on the surface above.

“In support of this activity we want to do a geological survey in 2018 to build a 3D picture of the rock strata before drilling test wells to establish the best places for extraction.”

He made the statement following a recent article in a national newspaper which suggested that the company “plan to drill up to 10 exploratory boreholes around the southern edge of the moors”.

In December 2015, the Government opted to allow fracking 1,200 metres below national parks and sites of special scientific interest - as long as drilling takes place from outside the protected areas.

INEOS has been developing its plans for several years. The company staged a public meeting and Q&A at the Milton Rooms in Malton in May 2016 at which they discussed their plans for the area.

Following that meeting, Gary Haywood, INEOS Shale CEO, said that they aimed to establish a “long-term conversation” with local communities and their representatives.

The company is not just interested in northern Ryedale. INEOS Shale hold exploratory licences, awarded in December 2015, for several areas across the whole district.

In November 2017, Norton Town Council said that it was considering holding a public meeting with other neighbouring councils following concerns permission had been sought to carry out seismic testing in Norton and Settrington.

That same month, the Frack Free Ryedale group released details of meetings between INEOS and the county council, though an INEOS spokesman said that “introductory meetings and consultation is expected of responsible developers”.

Ryedale councillor Mike Potter said that the increased number of applications will be a “wake-up call” for the district.

He said: “I see this as just the next phase in what was pretty obvious all along.

“It’s a wake-up call for all the complacent people around Ryedale who say we can’t do anything about it. All of a sudden the reality’s going to hit.

“We are moving on a phase and all of a sudden it’s not just one operation at Kirby Misperton.

“This isn’t scaremongering - this is just reaction to what the industry’s saying.”