AN energy firm has announced it is set to begin fracking operations near a theme park before the end of the year, if planners approve the controversial scheme.

Third Energy said its gas production scheme at Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire, was likely to be the first fracking project to become operational in the UK since the Government banned the controversial gas production method in 2011 over earthquakes with magnitudes of 2.3 and 1.5 in Lancashire, near a fracking site.

The scheme would also become the first site in North Yorkshire and the North East to conduct fracking, which involves a high-pressure water mixture being directed at the rock to release the gas inside.

The firm has asked North Yorkshire County Council to approve its scheme to hydraulically stimulate and test various geological formations, and although it is not likely to be considered for several months, it had already drilled a well for the scheme near Flamingoland.

If the tests reveal commercial quantities of gas, the firm would start producing gas from up to five formations into the production facilities it has run at the site for about 20 years for the generation of electricity.

The firm's operations director, John Dewar, said if the scheme proves successful, it could lead to a further planning application, to frack horizontally at the site, as greater amounts of gas can be extracted with that method.

He said the current proposals involved a six-week fracking operation, which would see different zones tested for a few hours at a time, and if large quantities of gas were found, gas production could continue at the site for about 20 years.

Mr Dewar said: “Submitting this application is an important milestone in the project to establish the potential to produce gas from the Bowland strata beneath North Yorkshire.

"We know that the gas is present, but it is only by actually hydraulically stimulating the rock that we can understand the potential of the gas to flow and the likely volumes that can be produced."

The Government lifted the ban in 2012, subject to extra controls to prevent seismic risks, and in January this year, MPs overwhelmingly rejected a bid to suspend fracking for shale gas on the grounds that it could derail efforts to tackle climate change and over uncertainties about its environmental impact.

Third Energy said it was confident the scheme would be safe and highlighted that it would apply to the Environment Agency for mining waste operation, radioactive substances and groundwater activity permits.

While the scheme has generated vociferous opposition, particularly in the Tory stronghold Ryedale area, David Cameron has blamed a "lack of understanding" about the fracking process for some of the opposition.

Tory MP for Thirsk and Malton Kevin Hollinrake said he would requesti a meeting with the Secutary of State for Energy and Climate Change to discuss the application, his serious concerns for the health and wellbeing of local residents and the impact on the countryside.

Campaigners, who believe the fracking operation would harm the local economy, tourism, agriculture and the environment, said if the plan was approved it would open the door to widespread commercial fracking across Ryedale.

Chris Redston, of Frack Free Ryedale, said: "The recent anti-fracking march in Malton was the biggest protest in Ryedale's history, and early 14,000 people in the recent Ryedale District Council elections votes for candidates who were clearly and unequivocally anti-fracking."

A Friends of the Earth spokesman added: “Third Energy’s plans to frack hundreds of wells across Ryedale also risks the area’s economic lifeblood of agriculture and tourism.”