ENVIRONMENTALISTS have attacked shale gas giant Cuadrilla over plans to drill under Lancashire homes without permission.

The energy company has reportedly threatened to pull out unless the law is changed to allow landowner’s permission to be overruled.

Greenpeace has hit out in response at Cuadrilla, which has this week applied to drill four exploratory wells in Preston.

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, has been quoted in the national press as saying they could not proceed if they had to negotiate with every landowner.

It comes after the formation of new protest groups – Frack Off Burnley and East Lancashire Against Fracking began public protests last month.

In an interview with the Times he said the requirement to seek landowner’s permission was ‘ridiculous’.

He said that landowners would be unaffected by drilling beneath their property and seeking permission endangered the scheme. He said: “It’s Catch 22. You have to demonstrate that they’re safe before you can get public opinion to support you.”

Greenpeace has told the Lancashire Telegraph they view the comments as a threat to gain more legal powers.

UK energy campaigner Simon Clydesdale said: “Such controversial plans to strip away householders’ rights just days before a consultation is set to be officially announced in the Queen’s Speech makes a mockery of public participation. The proposals themselves are a sham, offering practically nothing to the people affected by under-house drilling and placing no obligation on the frackers to compensate communities. If any money will be paid, it’s not even clear who’ll get it or manage it.

“This shale shambles just shows ministers are bending over backwards and cutting corners to satisfy the fracking lobby’s every wish.”

A petition against fracking, addressed to all East Lancashire councils, is at www. change.org.

When contacted by the Lancashire Telegraph, Cuadrilla said it “fully intends” to go ahead. They added: “We agree with both the Government's assertion and recent case law that the landowners’ enjoyment of surface land is not impaired at all by this activity.”