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Residents living close to one of the UK’s most controversial proposed fracking sites have reacted with astonishment after it emerged fracking companies themselves may be placed in charge of surveying local opinion on whether drilling should go ahead.

Government sources have suggested that companies like Cuadrilla – rather than councils or any other independent body – will be mandated to test if the controversial procedure has support.

It raises the bizarre prospect of ministers waving through plans for a procedure known to cause earthquakes on the basis that the outfit doing it has assured them people are happy to live with tremors.

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