British energy firm Cuadrilla Resources started work at its shale gas exploration site near Blackpool in Lancashire today.
Permission to start hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, at the firm's Preston New Road site was granted in October last year by communities secretary Sajid Javid, who overruled an earlier decision from Lancashire County Council.
It was one of two locations Cuadrilla was pursuing permission to frack, with the other based nearby at Roseacre Wood. So far, it has been allowed to monitor but not explore for shale gas at the second site.
The work today at Preston New Road was focused on preparation rather than fracking itself. Cuadrilla has said the surface site, roughly the size of a rugby pitch, will take around three months to build and prepare before drilling can start. The early works include a new site entrance and access road.
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla's chief executive, said:
The start of work on our new shale gas exploration site is an important milestone for Lancashire, bringing new economic growth and jobs for the county. The work will be undertaken to the highest safety and environmental standards.
The operations are also underpinned by comprehensive site monitoring programmes undertaken separately by ourselves, regulators and independent academics. Twelve months from now we hope this work will prove the economic viability of this indigenous shale gas resource in Lancashire which will help improve energy security for the nation.
Read more: The revenue well runs dry at Cuadrilla
Cuadrilla has held off from fracking since 2010 when its activities caused earth tremors in Blackpool.
"It seems premature that Cuadrilla has started work at the Preston New Road fracking site, against the will of local residents and the local council, when there are still two outstanding legal challenges," said Hannah Martin, campaigner at Greenpeace UK.
"With yet more PR spin, Cuadrilla is trying to demonstrate positive momentum for fracking, but delays to their timelines mean they won't start drilling until the summer. It is unlikely that homeowners will receive the fracking payments the government has promised them, and instead there will be noise, air and light pollution for the people of Lancashire."
Earlier this week, campaign group Friends of the Earth publicly accepted it made false claims on fracking, after a ruling following a 14-month investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority into a fundraising leaflet entitled "Pat Saved Her Home From Fracking. You Can Save Yours Too".