THE North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales are among the most suitable national parks for fracking due to their geology, according to experts.

A study by scientists at Durham’s Department of Earth Sciences found the protected areas featured rocks of possible interest to firms looking to frack for shale gas, shale oil, or coalbed methane.

The report's author, Dr Liam Herringshaw, said it had been prompted by confusion around Government policy in relation to the controversial gas extraction method, which involves blasting underground rock deposits with water to release trapped pockets of gas, in national parks.

The Government announced in January there would be “an outright ban on fracking in national parks”, only to amend this in February to say due to national parks size, "it might not be practical to guarantee that fracking will not take place under them”.

Ahead of exact regulations over fracking in national parks being set in July, Labour has pledged it would not allow shale gas exploration in national parks.

Dr Herringshaw said: “We hope this review of existing information about the geology of the UK’s national parks will help provide all sides involved in the fracking debate with some clarity about the potential for fracking in these areas, which currently appears to be lacking.”

Third Energy, whose director of operations told MPs last month there was a “negligible” risk of earthquakes from fracking, has become the first firm in Yorkshire and the North East to start the controversial drilling method, at a well near Pickering, North Yorkshire.

The firm said it did not have any plans for high volume hydraulic fracturing inside the North York Moors National Park, and its land inside the park was only being appraised for conventional extraction.

Anne McIntosh, who is stepping down as Thirsk and Malton MP and has previously expressed concerns over how the gas extraction method could affect tourism and farming, urged the incoming government to provide robust fracking regulations.

Conservation bodies in the Yorkshire Dales, where there are no known fracking plans, said they were shocked by the report and said the practise could devastate the area's tourism and farming economy.

Reacting to the report, campaign group Frack Free Yorkshire said it disagreed with the findings of the report as existing faults in the North York Moors geology could pose a drinking water pollution risk should the well integrity of fracking wells be compromised.

National Parks England said all 15 of the UK's national parks deserved "the highest protection regardless of their geology" and urged the next Government to provide clarity, while the Campaign for National Parks said it opposed fracking as it could cause significant environmental damage and undermine climate change schemes.