THE suspension of fracking has been welcomed as a ‘victory’ by residents and campaign groups in Northwich, but has also been branded a ‘cynical ploy’.

The issue is felt particularly strongly in Northwich, with chemical company Ineos holding license to frack in the area.

Fracking is a technique designed to recover gas and oil trapped in shale rock below the earth’s surface.

The Government has called a moratorium of the controversial process following a report by the Oil and Gas Authority, which found it is not currently possible to accurately predict the probability or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking operations.

And while the decision has been greeted positively by locals, people remain cynical over its timing and are sceptical over how long the suspension will remain in place.

Mike Amesbury, speaking as Weaver Vale's MP before parliament was dissolved, said he believes it is motivated by a desire to win votes in the area ahead of the upcoming general election on December 12.

Northwich Guardian:

Mike Amesbury

“This is not a ban on fracking, but a suspension until after the election,” he said.

“It is a cynical ploy and one that people are not going to fall for.

“I have been campaigning since I was first elected to keep fracking out of Weaver Vale – I have raised it in Parliament at PMQs, stood with protestors and even been called a ‘nimby’ by Liz Truss for my stance.

“Make no mistake, the Tories are fully behind fracking, but they are adept at burying unpopular policies in the hope that people will not notice, but people will.

“The Labour party will ban fracking outright – no ifs or buts.”

Conversely, campaign group Frack Free Northwich has welcomed the decision as a ‘victory’, but believes work still needs to be done.

As staunch opponents to fracking, campaigners from the group held a mock funeral procession on Witton Street in 2018 to mourn the 'bypassing of democracy', after permission was given to frack a site on Preston New Road near Blackpool.

Northwich Guardian:

Frack Free Northwich campaigners

On the latest development, the group said: “Victory, at last. But we can't celebrate unconditionally yet.

“The ban needs to be made permanent and written into law.

“Despite this, the announcement can be counted as a success as it shows all our wonderful protesters, many of whom have put their entire lives on hold to protest this disastrously polluting industry, have been totally vindicated.

“We can be justly proud that peaceful protest has worked so well to raise awareness that the government feared losing too many seats if they were not seen to withdraw support.”

Ineos, who are yet to begin fracking operations in Northwich, refused to comment on the Government’s moratorium when contacted by the Guardian.

In a previous statement, a company spokesperson said: “We have licenses in the Northwich area but no active shale operations at the moment.

“We continue to take a considered science-based approach to all our activities, whilst communicating with local communities living and working close to our operations.”

And Guardian readers have also had their say on the decision, voicing their scepticism over the timing of the Government’s decision on social media.

One reader said: “Wonderful timing, they will try anything.

Another commented: “It's apparently a temporary ban in an attempt to win votes.”

Have your say on the Government’s fracking ban and what it will mean for Northwich by sending your letters to