A row has broken out after a Government minister urged the public to give fracking “a fair crack of the whip” during a visit to the North West.
Energy minister Andrea Leadsom was speaking after visiting iGas Energy’s site at Doe Green, Warrington, to see what a “potential hydraulic fracturing site” would look like.
But Lancashire-based protesters said the site bore no resemblance to how a fracking site would look.
The minister visited the Doe Green site to see how iGas was extracting coal bed methane.
The pilot scheme demonstrates the potential of coal bed methane – and the gas produced generates electricity which is fed into the national grid for use in homes and businesses.
Last month Lancashire County Council rejected Cuadrilla’s applications to frack for shale gas in the county.
It had applied to frack at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, and at Roseacre Wood near Elswick.
The firm now plans to appeal against both decisions.
The Government and many business chiefs have made no secret that they would like to see shale gas exploration given the go-ahead.
And the minister said after her visit to Warrington the operation closely mirrored how a fracking site would operate, and urged opponents to think again about their objections.
Andrea Leadsom said: “I was very impressed. It’s exactly what a fracking site would look like.
“You would hardly know it was there. The whole site is hardly more than the size of a hockey pitch.”
The minister said shale was vital to reducing the UK’s reliance on gas imports, and safely regulated would provide an economic boost.
But Elizabeth Warner, chair of the Roseacre Awareness Group, aid: “The visit by a government minister to the fracking site near Warrington was a sign of desperation and no more than a stunt.
“I was at the site. It’s a small scale development site, it only just covers its costs and it has never, ever used deep level, high pressure hydraulic fracturing which is what is proposed on the Fylde!
“It was chosen precisely because it looked harmless.”
Ms Warner said it bore no resemblance to what might be created in the Fylde countryside if the planning inspector over-ruled the county council’s decisions.
County council officers had recommended that the Roseacre Wood bid should be dismissed mainly on traffic grounds, but said Preston New Road should be approved.
But members of the development control committee threw out both applications at a marathon hearing last month.
Prime Minister David Cameron is behind the shale gas industry, saying it could generate thousands of jobs.
But opponents fear earthquakes, water contamination, noise, and the visual impact.