Anti-fracking campaigners face eviction from their protest camp after an oil and gas giant launched legal proceeding to boot them off.
Energy firm Cuadrilla, which has plans to drill for shale gas on the Fylde coast, said it has joined forces with local farmers to serve a claim for possession against demonstrators who have occupied farmland in Little Plumpton near Blackpool.
Around 250 protesters were reported to have moved into the site Preston New Road two weeks ago, where they masterminded their campaign against two new proposed drilling sites.
While most of them have now moved out, Cuadrilla says a hardcore of around 15 remain there.
The energy firm branded the activists “illegal trespassers” and said they were damaging the farmer’s business.
In a statement explaining why they had launched legal proceedings at a Manchester court, Cuadrilla said: “The claim details the detrimental impact that the illegal trespass has had on the affected farmer’s business and on his family.
“This includes denying the dairy cattle the grazing they need as the occupation has taken over a third of the farm’s grazing land and resulted in lower milk yields.”
Cuadrilla have applied for two fracking sites in Lancashire - one on Preston New Road and one at Roseacre Wood.
The plans are currently being consulted on and the firm will find out in November if they will be given the go-ahead. If they are, drilling could begin early next year.
Proposals to allow fracking, a controversial form of natural gas extraction, have sparked protests across Britain.
Campaigners claim it is bad for the environment and can trigger mini earthquakes. But supporters and energy companies say fracking could help plug the UK’s energy needs.