A DEBATE on fracking has seen Ryedale's MP go head-to-head with an engineer in front of around 400 members of the public.

The debate, hosted by Kirkbymoorside Town Council, was held at Lady Lumley’s School last night.

Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton and supporter of regulated fracking, proposed the motion "This house believes that UK regulations make fracking safe".

Engineer Mike Hill made the case against this view.

The debate was chaired by retired bishop, the Right Reverend James Jones KBE, formerly Bishop of Liverpool and chair of the Hillsborough Inquiry.

The motion was lost with an overwhelming majority.

Before the debate, Mr Hill said: "This debate is very important not just for Yorkshire but for the UK.

"Fracking is not a bridge to a low carbon future and never was. It is a bridge to nowhere, a dead end."

Speaking afterwards, Mr Hollinrake said: "Safety was the main issue for most of the audience. They wanted reassurance that the Environment Agency (EA) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would proactively oversee the enforcement of regulations.

"The meeting left me in no doubt about the strength of feeling about this issue in the constituency, I do understand people’s concerns and I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet worried residents face to face.

"I made the point then, and I will continue to make it, that I will do everything I can to ensure that fracking is delivered safely, but if, in the unlikely event of there being a problem I will be the first to call for a moratorium."

The shale gas company, INEOS, is expected to begin seismic testing for shale gas in its licence areas in North Yorkshire this year.

Separately, a Government-appointed planning inspector is beginning to examine the North Yorkshire minerals and waste joint plan, which will set policy on fracking for the next 20 years.

The day set aside for oil and gas submissions is Tuesday, March 13.