Anti-fracking campaigners have been accused of being “aggressive and antagonistic” by a Fylde councillor.
Coun Maxine Chew has made the claims after an explosive meeting of Fylde Council in which it was revealed three of her colleagues had been paid by Cuadrilla for access to their land.
She says she has adopted a “neutral stance” on the issue in keeping with the mixed views of her constituents, however she supported a motion by Coun Liz Oades at the meeting calling for a moratorium on fracking until matters around safety and regulation are resolved.
But she also believes those who support the controversial shale gas extraction process, injecting water and chemicals at high pressure into shale rock deep beneath the surface to release gas, are afraid to speak out because of the vocal anti-fracking lobby.
Coun Chew, an independent, said: “The anti-fracking lobby are aggressive and very antagonistic.
“Every single person I know who is for shale gas is afraid to speak out.
“It doesn’t win (the protestors) any more sympathisers.”
She added: “The thing I find incredibly upsetting is it’s pitting communities against each other, neighbours against each other and families against each other.
“I have to take a bit of a neutral stance because some people are for it and some people are against it.
“It really is causing big divisions within communities.”
Coun Chew was one of nine other councillors who declared an interest ahead of the debate after Singleton Parish Council, on which she also sits, received money from the energy company to pay for a new heating system in the village hall.
She spoke in favour of Coun Oades’ notice of motion at last Monday’s meeting, which was eventually defeated after members of the authority’s ruling Conservative group voted against it.
She said: “If the Government is determined to go ahead with fracking, the only way forward is to have regulatory bodies based in the Fylde, and to make sure that these regulatory bodies do their job properly.
“It would have cost the Conservatives nothing to ask for that moratorium.”
Cuadrilla has applied for planning permission to drill test wells at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood, and runs a grant scheme for “the communities it operates within”.
Explaining her declaration of interest ahead of the debate, she added: “Cuadrilla gave the village hall money but it wasn’t my decision, I was one of nine.
“I was in favour of it at the time because the village hall desperately needed that money to do our heating system.”
Frack Free Fylde spokesman Gayzer Frackman, one of 80 members of the public at the meeting, walked out of the room ahead of a vote proposing an amended notice of motion, shouting: “We are stopping fracking for our children” and “This is a farce” as he went.
He said: “It was just total frustration and that the original notice of motion wasn’t taken through.
“They’re letting our children down and you are going to get emotional when your children are being put in danger.”