Anti-fracking protesters have stolen a march on opponents by occupying a field which is in line to be fracked for gas.
Groups from across the Fylde and Preston have set up camp off Preston New Road close to the World of Water Aquatic Centre near Peel.
They aim to stay on the field for at least a week after which a planned Reclaim the Power protest is likely to arrive in the area. This could see up to 1,000 anti-fracking protesters from the Fylde and around the country, including people who took part in the Balcombe and Salford protest camps.
The protesters, dressed in pinafores and headscarves to signify they were mothers and grandmothers concerned about issues surrounding fracking, arrived at dawn, wrong-footing the security guards camped on the farm.
Pro-fracking groups have urged the protest camp to be cancelled and the protesters have been accused of being aggressive.
Fracking is the process of injecting water and chemicals at high pressure into shale rock deep beneath the surface to release gas.
One of the women, Bex Fitton, from Fleetwood Folk Say No to Fracking, said they wanted to show that local people were supporting the protest camp, due on August 14.
She said: “There are about 25 of us here today from groups such as Residents Action on Fylde Fracking, Fleetwood and the Preston New Road Action Group as well as people from Preston and Longridge who believe fracking will cause great damage. We are just mums and grandmothers who want to protect the countryside for our children and grandchildren.They say fracking will create jobs but we believe that it will harm agriculture and tourism and jobs will be lost there. We just want to show the strength of opposition and show Lancashire County Council that people don’t want planning permission to be given for test drilling.
Tina Rothery, of Residents’ Action on Fylde Fracking, said: “The shale gas industry and Cuadrilla in particular are not to be trusted with the health and wellbeing of our children. We do not want them here and so are gathering to make sure we are heard and we are calling others to help us amplify this. ”
A spokesman for Cuadrilla, which wants to test for gas in the area, said: “This action by protesters involved trespass on a farmer’s field which is near our proposed exploration site, causing inconvenience to his business and stress to him and his family.
“Our planning applications are currently subject to public consultation through which people are able to make their views known.
“Cuadrilla has consistently made clear that we support the right to peaceful protest, but there are legal and proper ways of making your point without targeting local farmers in this manner.
A spokesman for the North West Energy Task Force, a group of businesses which supports fracking, said: “We are deeply concerned by reports that protesters have trespassed on land owned by a local farmer.”