Campaigners have called on the Government to out a halt to fracking as the company behind shale gas on the Fylde announced it has started drilling.
Exploration company Cuadrilla is now drilling at the Preston New Road site but is not set to frack for gas until early next year.
Friends of the Earth has written to Greg Clark MP, the Secretary of State for Business and Energy, to ask him to not to give final consent to allow fracking to go ahead. The minister still has to give final consent before the controversial hydraulic fracturing process can begin where water chemicals and sand is injected into shale rock to release natural gas trapped there.
Helen Rimmer, Friends of the Earth North West campaigner, said: “Fracking is bad news for the community, bad news for our environment and is the wrong solution to our energy needs. But it’s not too late for the government to admit that it has got it wrong on fracking and put an end to this risky industry before it starts.”
A spokesperson from Preston New Road Action Group said: “Preston New Road Action Group are bitterly disappointed that Cuadrilla have reportedly commenced drilling at the Preston New Road site, despite a legal challenge still being in progress.
"They seem to have a total disregard for the local community, despite on many occasions saying they wish to be good neighbours.
"Once drilling commences the local community is subjected to 24/7 drilling with the impacts that it is likely to have on their lives. As the rig was delivered during the night they have already breached planning conditions which does not bode well for the future.”
But pro-fracking group Lancashire For Shale has welcomed the start of the drilling and also Cuadrilla’s announcement that it has made a donation of £100,000 to an independent Community Benefit Fund, managed by the Community Foundation for Lancashire to be used for the benefit of the Fylde community.
Cuadrill also said that residents will be consulted on whether they wish the funds for the other three wells Cuadrilla has planning consent to drill and hydraulically fracture at Preston New Road to be paid into the independent Community Benefit Fund, managed by the Community Foundation for Lancashire, or proportionately directly to individual local households via a separate scheme. If all three wells are drilled, this would total another £300,000.
A spokesman said: “We welcome this significant drilling milestone on the journey to delivering the economic benefits from shale gas to the people of Lancashire.
"It is particularly noteworthy that the start of drilling has triggered the promised donation of £100,000 to an independent community benefit fund, for community projects to be agreed with local people. Cuadrilla is once again meeting its commitments."