A ROW has broken out between opponents and supporters of fracking in Lancashire over an open letter from businesses backing shale gas extraction.

The January document, organised by the North West Energy Task Force, was signed by more than 100 business leaders backing exploration and drilling between Preston and Blackpool.

Lancashire County Council turned down the planning applications for the fracking developments and drilling firm behind them, Cuadrilla, appealed.

Now ‘Frack Free Lancashire’ claims 15 of the signatories do not support the controversial process.

In 2012, the British Geological Survey’s study of shale gas resources in Lancashire revealed the M65 corridor North of Blackburn across to Burnley and Colne and down the Rossendale Valley was sitting on significant commercially exploitable resources of shale gas.

The open letter said the business leaders across the North West believed natural gas from shale would create thousands of jobs and improve local wages through access to a £33billion supply chain generated by the industry.

Frack Free Lancashire’s Gail Hodson did a telephone survey of a third of businesses on the list, She said: “Given the widespread anti-fracking sentiment in the community alarm bells rang when we saw this list.

“We easily found out that many had not agreed to be on this list, or had never heard of it.

“Perhaps most interestingly, others, still, were actually against fracking.”

Furqan Naeem, campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “It is shocking that the North West Energy Task Force has claimed to have the support of businesses for fracking without their consent.”

A spokeswoman for NWETF said: “Following the publication of the letter, none of the signatories have raised concerns about their name appearing in support of shale gas. Sometimes people who are rung up by activists can feel intimidated and change their minds.

“If anyone contacts us asking to have their name removed from our list, we are happy to do so.”