AN investigation is to be carried out into whether objections to a fracking plan are genuine.

It is understood North Yorkshire County Council is checking whether comments posted on national environmental groups' websites were automatically forwarded to its consultation over proposals for the country's first fracking operation since 2011.

The inquiry comes as the council launched an interim report into Third Energy's shale gas scheme beside Flamingo Land, near Pickering, which featured the firm dismissing key objections to the plan.

The report says it has been presented with assessments of the effects of the development on matters ranging from air quality and cultural heritage to noise and public health.

These had all been found to be neutral or slight, with mitigation measures, by the firm.

It found that with 42 stacked shipping containers around the site as a noise barrier, noise levels for the nearest residents would be up to 60 decibels during daylight hours for six weeks.

It also revealed there would be HGV vehicle movements at the site every ten minutes from 7am to 7pm during the two-week first phase and overall water requirement for the process was four million litres, enough to fill one and a half Olympic swimming pools.

The report for the council's planning and regulatory functions committee included a response from Rillington Parish Council, which predicted "major protests" at fracking sites.

It added: "The environment risks are monumental as are the major risks to public health."

The officers' report said the authority had received 2,465 letters and emails on the scheme - a number expected to significantly rise - of which just 12 were in support.

It added some objections sent en masse via e-mail included messages sent unbeknown to the owner of the email address or the named person on the letter.

"The authority has been informed by members of the public that their personal data may have been used without their consent. The scale of this is unknown at this point in time."

A council spokeswoman said it was verifying the identification of all who had made representations.

She added: "If any of the council’s enquiries raise matters that require police attention those matters will be referred to the police."

Council sources believe it unlikely there was malicious intent behind the sending of the emails in question.

They said some of the instances identified may have involved people who did not realise the messages they had posted on websites would be sent to the authority's consultation.

A spokesman for campaign group Frack Free Ryedale added: "We understand some people have objected using online letter templates organised by national campaign groups, and may not have realised these were going direct to the council, rather than to the campaign groups themselves."