Pressure group Greenpeace has launched a legal challenge in a bid to stop plans for shale gas extraction in Lancashire and beyond.
The legal case is based on fracking companies’ plans to drill horizontally under people’s homes as part of the energy extraction process - something Greenpeace claims could be unlawful.
However, business leaders in Lancashire say the move could see the county miss out on ‘growth and jobs”.
Greenpeace senior campaigner Anna Jones said: “Under English law, if you own land, your rights extend to all the ground beneath it. That means if someone drills under your home without permission, it is trespass.
“To avoid being liable for trespass, drillers would need landowners’ permission. And this case is about people explicitly declaring they do not give that permission. This will make it extremely difficult for companies to move ahead with any horizontal drilling plans.”
The legal challenge is being backed by Karen Ditchfield, a company director and resident near the Singleton site, who said: “My husband and I are joining the legal block because we’re worried and frustrated about what’s going on. No one has asked us if they can drill under our home and land. But this is not just about my life, it is my children’s lives, and what we’re leaving for people for years to come.”
However, Francis Egan, chief executive of energy firm Cuadrilla, said: “This country pioneered subsurface infrastructure.
“All of our existing subsurface underground rail, water, gas, telecommunications and electric development has historically succeeded in legal coexistence with surface property rights.
“Newer technology such as geothermal energy and carbon capture and storage will also have to negotiate this.
“We are confident that new subsurface shale development that safely offers energy security, skilled jobs and community benefits will in due course be no different.”
John Kersley, of the Institute of Directors, added: “It could mean that the people of Lancashire miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for growth and jobs.”
“That would be a real shame.”