An energy firm is launching an appeal after council planners refused them permission to test for shale gas in Ellesmere Port.

IGas want to ‘flow test’ their well in the town’s dockland area, to find out whether the rock formations there produce gas or oil.

The move could help pave the way for the controversial process of fracking - which campaigners say is bad for the environment - to take place at the site.

A special Cheshire West and Chester Council planning meeting was held in January to discuss the application, when the committee voted overwhelmingly (by 10 votes to one) in favour of refusing the plans.

It was a major victory for anti-fracking campaigners, as well as the residents and local councillors who raised objections at the meeting.

However, after announcing their financial results for 2017, IGas signalled their intention to appeal the decision. A spokesperson for the British firm - which posted a profit of £15.9m for last year - said there was “no more to add at this stage” but an appeal would be forthcoming.

The news - while not unexpected - has drawn a strongly-worded response from anti-fracking campaigners.

A statement issued by Ellesmere Port Frack Free read: “Despite the withering response to IGas’s planning application to develop the well in Ellesmere Port, by all councillors on the planning committee, and the damming comments made by many other councillors from both political parties at the CWaC planning meeting, IGas seems intent on wasting more time and resource on this reckless endeavour.

“On all the key concerns expressed by the residents of Ellesmere Port, planning inspectors have upheld the decisions of planning committees elsewhere in the country, so it is highly likely they will do the same for this appeal. Sadly this will impose another large waste of public money on the Cheshire tax and rate payer.”

The statement added: “The local frack free groups have been expecting this response from IGas, and already have assembled a team of national and international experts who are prepared to testify to the foolishness of this proposal.”

The application, which had been recommended for approval, made no reference to fracking. But campaigners said the tests would help pave the way for the process, which involves fracturing underground rocks to release gas, to take place in the area.

Campaigners are also opposing plans by IGas to frack for shale gas at a site on Ince Marshes.