THE firm planning to bring fracking of shale gas to North Yorkshire says it has won the support and the trust of local people.

Appearing before a parliamentary inquiry, Third Energy estimated that almost 80 per cent of residents who attended public meetings left with the view: “Look, okay, I think you can do it.”

John Dewar, the company’s director of operations, insisted there was a “negligible” risk of earthquakes from fracking, which would bring only a “very small” number of lorries.

And he told MPs: “We have been there for 20 years. We have operated quietly, safely and causing minimum disruption to the local population

“We have won their trust and we have a good relationship with the local regulators. We have an excellent environmental record – people have got used to us.

“We do our best to support – not in an over-stated way - local charities, local football teams, and flower festivals in what little way we can.”

But Anne McIntosh, the Thirsk and Malton MP and a leading fracking sceptic, said: “I think your impression and my impression might be slightly different!”

The MP argued fracking for shale gas would be very different to existing “conventional fracking” and seized on Mr Dewar’s estimate that larger sites could each have up to 50 wellheads.

She said: “You are talking about an area of tourism and farming having approximately 50 wellheads.”

Miss McIntosh is the chairwoman of the environment select committee, which is carrying out a rapid-fire inquiry into the fracking controversy, before parliament is dissolved at the end of the month.

It follows the Government’s much-criticised decision to pass legislation while leaving key regulations up in the air until July – after the general election.

It means basic questions – such as whether drilling can go ahead near groundwater sources – will be unknown when Third Energy applies to frack at Kirby Misperton, near Pickering, this month.

Ministers have also been accused of breaking a promise to ban fracking in National Parks, by planning to allow horizontal drilling from wells put up just outside them, for up to three kilometres.

Miss McIntosh asked Mr Dewar for a commitment not to frack “in or under National Parks”, given the firm would be applying under the “existing legislation”.

The director of operations replied: “Yes, I can give you that commitment – but it’s impossible to say never, ever.”

Speaking afterwards, Miss McIntosh welcomed Third Energy’s fresh commitment not to remove contaminated water underground, but she called for its application to be thrown out.

She said: “It’s inappropriate. I hope and pray North Yorkshire County Council will turn it down.”