MORE can be done to promote the benefits of fracking to the economy, according to Bury North MP David Nuttall.

In Parliament last Thursday, Mr Nuttall asked Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom what steps she is taking to prevent protected areas from being adversely affected by the development of shale gas, also known as fracking.

The Government is considering allowing fracking in large swathes of the borough, though no specific projects have been revealed and it could be many years before that happens.

Mrs Leadsom replied: "Shale gas could become a valuable new industry and it is in the strong interests of the UK to explore its potential. However, we are determined to protect our most valuable spaces and therefore it is our intention to ban surface-level drilling in the most previous areas, including national parks and sites of special scientific interest.

"We have also regulated to make sure hydraulic fracturing cannot take place at less than 1,200m under protected areas."

Mr Nuttall said her comments would allay the concerns of some.

He added more can be done to extol the positive virtues of shale gas, including new jobs and security of energy supply.

Mrs Leadsom said a thriving shale industry would create up to 64,000 jobs.

Bury Council's deputy leader, Cllr Rishi Shori, of Labour, said: "Protecting our green spaces is a key priority for Bury Labour Group.

"Consequently we oppose the current system the Government has in place in respect of granting licences to fracking companies. We believe that local communities should be given the final say on whether certain sites are suitable for fracking.

"Allowing the local community their say in relation to one source of energy supply like wind power but not in relation to another like fracking, is contradictory and undemocratic."

Bury Liberal Democrats leader, Cllr Tim Pickstone, said: "The assurances given by Mrs Leadsom are meaningless for Bury — large parts of which are now covered by fracking licenses.

"We need energy security. We need sustainable energy. Fracking will not deliver any of these. But it will deliver greenhouse gases."

John Southworth, of Bury Green Party, said: "Shale gas will bring devastation to our communities.

"In addition to the toxic chemical cocktail being pumped under our homes are the emissions from the transportation of the millions of gallons of water required by the process, further damaging our air quality and transport infrastructure.

"Look at the evidence from the US and Australia and follow the line of Germany and France in banning the process here before it is too late."