FEARS that fracking could take place in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales have been played down following a Government vote to allow the controversial process to happen in environmentally sensitive areas.

A motion to allow exploration for shale gas under national parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSIs) and world heritage sites was passed by MPs with a majority of 37.

But a Lake District National Park Authority spokesperson said research suggested the geology of the region meant it was not suitable for fracking, adding: "We do not expect fracking to be an issue within the Lake District National Park. There are no Government licence blocks in the immediate vicinity of the national park."

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority Chief Executive David Butterworth said the potential for fracking 'is small due to the geology of the area'.

The plans will allow fracking to be carried out 1,200 metres beneath the surface of protected areas.

No drilling will be allowed to happen from inside the areas.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron was one of 261 MPs who voted against the plans and accused ministers of trying to sneak through the changes.

The vote took place with ballot papers as part of a ‘deferred division’ and so was not debated in the House of Commons.

Mr Farron said: "The government’s decision to sneak through a huge change to allow fracking in our national parks without a proper debate is outrageous.”

Furness MP John Woodcock voted against the plan and Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris voted in favour, alongside 297 others.

Eden MP Rory Stewart did not vote.

Meanwhile, officials at the Oil & Gas Authority have granted new fracking licences to 14 companies to explore in 124 different areas, including three near Barrow and two south of Morecambe.

Other areas include the North York Moors, near Whitby, the Peak District, and Exmoor.

Companies will still need landowner consent, Environment Agency assessments and planning permission from local authorities before drilling can start.