Nearly two thirds of people think local councils, not the Government, should decide if fracking goes ahead in their area, a poll suggests.

The survey of 1,055 people for Greenpeace which found that 62% of people were in favour of the decision being made locally comes as a public inquiry begins into whether the go-ahead should be given for shale gas exploration at two sites in Lancashire.

The environmental group is staging a protest outside Parliament complete with a 10-metre fracking rig and drill, in protest against the move by the Government to drive forward with the controversial process for extracting gas in the UK.

A public inquiry is being held after Lancashire County Council turned down shale gas company Cuadrilla's planning application for exploratory drilling and fracking for shale gas at two sites in Roseacre and Little Plumpton, in Lancashire.

Cuadrilla's appeal against the decision is being heard by the planning inspector at the inquiry, but the Government has decided Communities Secretary Greg Clark will make the final decision because the proposals are "of more than local significance".

A rally is taking place outside Blackpool Football club where the inquiry is being held.

Jasber Singh, from Lancashire and part of Frack Free Lancashire, said: "I have been involved with anti-fracking community groups in Lancashire for over two years, and the number of groups keeps increasing.

"That's because we are not going to gain anything from fracking apart from air, noise, land and water pollution that's bad for our health and the health of the climate.

"It would pay the Communities Minister to visit some communities in Lancashire rather than ignoring us and our council."

More than 30 Greenpeace activists arrived in Parliament Square at 6am to erect the "Frack & Go" rig under cover of darkness.

By the time MPs started arriving at Westminster, fake workers in high-vis jackets were in place to man noisy drills and diggers as the rig spurted plumes of flame, and an electronic display board showed the message "Greg Clark - You've Been Fracked".

Spokeswoman Hannah Martin said the protesters had not notified police of their plans, but by mid-morning had not received any request to halt the demo.

"We are here today to fight for the future of the English countryside," said Ms Martin. "We are trying to bring some of the negative impacts that local communities such as those in Lancashire face from fracking right to the heart of democracy, to show the so-called Communities Secretary Greg Clark and his colleagues what it is like.

"Greg Clark will make the final decision on this, and given the Government's pro-fracking stance, that essentially makes a mockery of local democracy."

The Government has said it is going "all out for shale" to boost energy security and the economy.

But opponents fear fracking - in which liquid is pumped deep underground at high pressure to fracture rock and release gas - can cause water contamination, earthquakes, damaging development in the countryside and noise and traffic pollution.

Environmentalists also warn that pursuing new sources of gas - a fossil fuel - is not compatible with efforts to tackle climate change, and that the focus should be on developing cleaner sources of energy such as renewables.

As the planning inquiry got under way in Blackpool, singing and chanting could be heard from anti-fracking protesters outside.

Nathalie Lieven QC, for Cuadrilla, told the inquiry that the appeals over the two sites concerned applications relating to the exploration of onshore natural gas through hydraulic fracking of shale rock or related monitoring works.

"Self-evidently that process is controversial. However, this is not an inquiry into the rights or wrongs of shale gas extraction and how it relates to the UK's climate change obligations.

"This is a planning inquiry," she said, warning it must be considered in the context of national planning policy.

She pointed to a ministerial statement setting out the Government's view that developing gas was a "key requirement" in the move towards a low-carbon economy and there was a clear need to seize the opportunity to explore and test UK shale potential.

The planning application at Little Plumpton was turned down last year by Lancashire County Council on the grounds of unacceptable impact on the landscape, visual amenities and noise, while the site at Roseacre was refused over traffic concerns.

But Ms Lieven said objectors to the schemes had failed to acknowledge or properly take into account the temporary nature of the impacts.

She said night-time noise would be of short duration and would affect just a handful of homes, while mitigation measures would be put in.

And with the monitoring units for the site mainly underground and the drilling rigs only in place for a few days, "the idea that will cause industrialisation of the countryside is far-fetched".

At Roseacre, she said the traffic would be a maximum of 50 HGV movements a day for 12 weeks, and that the risks of meeting a lorry on a country road were not different to what they were anywhere in the countryside.

"Ultimately these are proposed developments where the Government has stated that there is a national need, and where the planning impacts are very limited," she said, adding the planning balance was clear that the appeals should be granted.

Alan Evans, representing Lancashire County County, said that the local authority had turned the planning application at Little Plumpton down against the advice of planning officials, which he suggested was "local democracy in action".

His remark prompted applause from people listening to the inquiry, who were told to be quiet before he went on to say that the council was relying on professional evidence for its case.