MOVES to fast-track fracking without the consent from the public has been criticised by East Lancashire campaigners.

New draft rules have been put out to consultation which, if approved, would mean that the views of residents around potential sites would not be sought in the early stages of most new oil and gas developments.

The exploration testing would be an early stage in the process before hydraulic fracturing - where pressurise chemicals are used to break up rocks to release oil or gas - is started.

The news comes before Lancashire County Council are due to vote on Tuesday, June 30, on sites in Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, and Roseacre Wood, Roseacre.

Frack Free Lancashire and Friends of the Earth have organised a demonstration and rally on Tuesday, June 23 at County Hall in Preston.

The Environment Agency has said that the new Standard Rules would not be a new regulatory approach as they are already used for other sectors that it regulates.

They have been used in the past for low-risk activities and are issued when the Environment Agency is confident that the company it is dealing with understands the risks to the environment.

Avril Hesson, from the Burnley and District Friends of the Earth, said: "I think that this is very irresponsible and dangerous for the environment.

"To think that it could one day be so easy to frack in East Lancashire is a horrible thought.

"The government are clearly desperate to get this industry up and running and they will do all they can to do it as soon as possible.

"While there are no active planning permissions in this area I can see that if these proposals are pushed through then it will not be long until we have some in East Lancashire."

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We take the environmental risks associated with oil and gas exploration and production very seriously.

“We are committed to ensuring people and the environment are protected, and these draft Standard Rule proposals will only cover lower risk activities and do not allow for hydraulic fracturing.

"We will actively consider all responses made during the consultation and they will help shape our permitting regulations.”