FRACKING firm Cuadrilla resources will begin drilling at its Westby site in the near future.
The firm will drill a borehole but has pledged not to carry out any controversial fracking – currently suspended – until it is given the go-ahead by authorities.
Cuadrilla is set to lodge planning permission for the initial bore hole, but would need further planning permission to carry out fracking, the practice of firing high pressure water and chemicals underground to release shale gas.
The firm hopes to use the new well to explore the area’s geology to see if it is ripe for fracking, but campaigners want all Cuadrilla’s work halted until DECC’s report is published.
Helen Rimmer, north west campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said: “Cuadrilla is pushing ahead despite the huge uncertainty over risks to the environment and health.
“They have not been given the go-ahead to resume fracking yet and it is not unstoppable, the community can get involved and put in their objections.
“The Government must call a halt on fracking and carry out a full assessment of all the risks including climate change.”
And Poulton-based campaigner John Bailie added: “This news is desperately concerning for the entire area.
“While Cuadrilla say the location is in a remote area, last year’s tremors were felt miles away from the drill site which caused them.”
The well would be one mile down and, subject to planning permission, extend 1,000 metres across from the site, with the direction to be decided once the initial vertical well has been drilled.
Cuadrilla also has sites in Singleton and Weeton.
Coun Maxine Chew said: “I believe horizontal fracking is very common elsewhere, but Cuadrilla must make sure this practice is safe and have all the checks in place.”
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, said: “We are doing this at our own risk, we’re not fracturing it now we’re just drilling.
“It will cost several million and people are putting their money at risk.
“Part of the uncertainty for us is we don’t know how long planning permissions are going to take.”
Mr Egan said the firm would not push ahead with plans before next year, but would press on with exploratory works.
He said the work would help assess how much of the 200 trillion cubic feet of gas locked in shale rock can be extracted.
The company is currently awaiting the go-ahead from the Government to resume hydraulic fracturing on its four wells across the county.
It is expected the green light will be given along with strict regulations to allay fears over water contamination and causing earth tremors next month when Parliament returns from the summer break.
Mr Egan said: “At that point, we would look to do further work to fracture and flow back the wells we have.”
A public information day will be held by Cuadrilla on September 4 from 5 to 8.30pm at Pipers Height Caravan Park on Peel Road, for residents to see the plans and processes involved. Cuadrilla staff will be on hand to talk to residents and answer any questions.