Minister warns of fracking shake

Energy Minister Michael Fallon appears to have contradicted his own public claims that fracking would not ruin the countryside after apparently joking the controversial drilling process could cause houses' walls to shake.

Tory MP warns of north-south fracking 'divide'

A conservative MP says Britain risks a "north-south" divide over fracking amid ongoing controversy over prospecting for shale gas.

Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw warned that a situation where "the North gets the dirty end and the south sucks up all the energy" was unacceptable.

His comments came after Tory peer Lord Howell of Guildford sparked outrage earlier this week by suggesting that fracking should be confined to "desolate" parts of the north of England.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour, Mr Ollerenshaw said: "It does look as if the rest of the country wants to use Lancashire as its energy base.. but long term what is going to be the benefit to the area where this is going to happen?"

Senior Lib Dem 'deeply worried' by zeal for fracking

Drilling has begun at the Balcombe fracking site in West Sussex despite vast protests nearby. Credit: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

Liberal Democrat party president Tim Farron has told the Sunday Telegraph he is "deeply worried" by the Government's "dash for shale gas" fracking.

Mr Farron said: “I am afraid the Government has seen flashing pound signs and has not considered the long-term threats fracking poses to the countryside.

"I think this is a very short-sighted policy and we will all be left to live the consequences.”

Activists from across the UK have descended on the outskirts of Balcombe in West Sussex, which has become a national focal point for the campaign against hydraulic fracturing.

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Report: Minister's private joke underlines fracking fears

Michael Fallon said fracking could take place in The Weald in the South of England as well as the North West. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Archive

Energy Minister Michael Fallon appears to have contradicted his own public claims that fracking would not ruin the countryside after apparently joking the controversial drilling process could cause houses' walls to shake.

Mr Fallon reportedly remarked at a private meeting that plans to drill in the counties to the south of London would disrupt the lives of media commentators.

"We are going to see how thick their rectory walls are, whether they like the flaring at the end of the drive!" he said, according to the Mail on Sunday.

The comments were reported as exploratory drilling began at a site in Balcombe, West Sussex, despite anti-fracking protests by local people and activists from across the UK.

Watch: Fracking firm boss 'understands why public are scared'

Cuadrilla starts drilling for shale gas in Balcombe

Energy company Cuadrilla has confirmed that it has started exploratory oil drilling in West Sussex as anti-fracking protests at the site entered a ninth day.

A Cuadrilla spokesman said: "We started test drilling at 11.15am, and we will do a 3,000ft vertical well. We will be there for two to three months."

The project has been subject to days of delays because of high-profile protests designed to halt delivery of trucks and equipment to the plant.

Anti-fracking protesters attempt to block road

Protesters attempt to stop a lorry entering the site in Balcombe, West Sussex Credit: Press Association

Protesters at the Balcombe fracking site in West Sussex have been attempting to block the road and slow down vehicles that have been arriving at the site this morning.

A woman walks in front of the large police line in Balcombe, West Sussex. Credit: Press Association
Caudrilla's lorry is given a police escort into the site. Credit: Press Association

Read: Fracking to start 'as soon as possible'

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Fracking firm Cuadrilla testing equipment

Energy firm Cuadrilla have said started testing equipment ahead of exploratory drilling for gas at a site near Balcombe in West Sussex last night, the company confirmed. A spokesperson said:

Testing of equipment started last night but we haven't started drilling yet.

Campaigns against the controversial method have now entered a ninth day. Drilling could begin as early as later today.

Importing energy puts UK at 'risk of security of supply'

The boss of energy company Cuadrilla said if the UK cannot develop its own oil and gas then it will be forced to import, putting the country at "risk in terms of security of supply."

Francis Egan told ITV News: "If we can't develop our own oil and gas then we have to import it. That costs billions of pounds, generates zero jobs and it puts us at risk in terms of security of supply."

Fracking firm boss 'understands why public are scared'

The boss of energy company Cuadrilla said he understood why the public were scared about fracking and the industry needed to address these concerns.

Francis Egan said: "There are a lot of scare stories out there. I attended a drop-in session in Balcombe and I had people come to me and they were convinced that their children would get cancer because they had been told that they would get cancer from drilling an oil exploration well.

"We have drilled 2,000 exploration wells onshore in this country over the last several decades and there is not one reported case of cancer as a consequence of that.

"There is no risk of people getting cancer but if you spread those kind of stories, I completely understand that people would be scared.

"I would be scared so part of our job is to try and explain what it is we are doing, what we are not doing, what are the risks, if there are risks associated with that and how they are managed."

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