Anti-fracking campaigners have vowed to stand together to oppose expansion of the shale gas industry across the north of England.
Their pledge comes after the Government issued the 14th round of petroleum exploration and development licenses for companies to explore on shore for shale gas and oil.
The majority of licenses to be issued are in the north of England. New sites opened up for development include areas east and south of Preston plus areas south of Lancaster and near Skelmersdale and Wigan.
Furious campaigners from more than 30 groups responded quickly to say they will show a united front and support each other in their fight against fracking and onshore fossil fuel extraction.
Bob Dennett, from Frack Free Lancashire, said: “The fact that the vast majority of the licenses being issued are based in the north shows the governments contempt for our communities. Obviously they have listened to Tory Peer, Lord Howell and decided to focus fracking in the ‘desolate north’.
“The gloves are off and they will get a shock if they think we will be so easily pushed around.”
Frack Free Lancashire, an alliance of more than 40 groups, claimed victory against fracking company Cuadrilla when they helped persuade Lancashire County Council to turn down two planning applications on the Fylde.
They added that a community campaign in East Yorkshire also won a victory this month when Rathlin Energy was forced to abandon an exploratory well in the face of massive local opposition.
Pippa Hockey, from Frack Free East Yorkshire, said: “The more they try and push fracking on us, the harder we will fight back. We have made friends all over the UK, especially with other groups in the north, and now we will all work together.”
The groups are worried that the Government, in recent announcements about speeding up the planning process, was trying to fast track fracking.
Elizabeth Warner, from the Roseacre Awareness Group, said: “The announcement of the 14th Round of licences goes some way to explaining the recent campaign by Government to try to convince the public that fracking is inevitable and safe. No doubt there was a big panic as their own survey of public attitudes showed mounting opposition across the country.
“As a result, they dispatched a minister to Doe Green in Warrington to pretend it was just like future fracking sites and then Amber Rudd to pretend Lancashire County Council was to blame for delays in decisions for Cuadrilla here on the Fylde.”
However the new licences have been welcomed by industry groups. Ken Cronin, from UKOOG, the representative body for the UK’s onshore oil and gas industry, said: “Over 2,000 onshore wells have been drilled in the UK, and 120 are operational, yet few realise these sites are even there.”