GRANTING a fracking licence for mid Cheshire has been branded 'ridiculous beyond belief' by a Northwich councillor.

It was announced in December that energy giant INEOS has been given a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL), which grants the licensee exclusivity over an area of land for onshore hydrocarbon exploration, appraisal and extraction.

Cllr Andrew Cooper, from Northwich Town Council, criticised the news in the light of a history of salt mining and subsidence in the mid Cheshire area.

He said he had been to an event at Frodsham two years ago where two professors debated the advantages and disadvantages of fracking.

At the event Cllr Cooper asked Professor Peter Styles, of Keele University and co-author of a government-commissioned report on fracking, about the situation in Northwich.

"He said he had been personally involved in the land stabilisation project under Northwich and he said there's no way you would ever do fracking in Northwich or indeed in any area of previous salt or coal extraction because it's too dangerous," Cllr Cooper said.

"Because of brine pumping in Northwich for more than 100 years you just don't know what's under the surface.

"Not all mines were filled in and you don't know how small a tremor you would need to create further subsidence.

"Issuing a licence to frack in the Northwich area is ridiculous beyond belief and shows a callous disregard for this area and any kind of local geological knowledge in favour of making money."

Cllr Cooper, speaking at the January town council meeting, outlined the £31 million investment made to stabilise the mines and the £80 million investment to redevelop Barons Quay and added: "It just seems crazy that we would put all that at risk over the possibility that there might be gas under Northwich."

Northwich Town Council agreed to write to Weaver Vale MP Graham Evans and Tatton MP George Osborne for support to prevent fracking in the area.