ANTI-FRACKING campaigners in Cheshire have cautiously welcomed the Government's immediate moratorium on fracking – but remain concerned and are continuing to push for an outright ban.

The indefinite suspension of fracking – or shale gas extraction – comes after a report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) said it was not possible to predict the probability or size of earthquake tremors caused by the practice.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced the Government said "further consents for fracking will not be granted" in England.

In response, Frack Free Upton said in a statement: “Obviously we are mightily relieved that the prospect of fracking in Cheshire has receded as a result of this announcement, in which the Government acknowledges for the first time that there are unacceptable risks associated with on-shore shale gas extraction in the UK.

"But is it all it seems? While this may indicate a shift in Government tactics, we will not be recycling our leaflets and shutting up shop quite yet, as behind the attention-grabbing headline, the wording of the statement clearly leaves the door ajar for this destructive and unnecessary industry to return.

"It falls far short of the total and unequivocal ban which we are campaigning for.

"Firstly, it is not a ban, but a moratorium 'unless and until further evidence is provided that it can be carried out safely here'. "This is a decidedly half-hearted response to the recent National Audit Office report which highlighted the many major uncertainties and potential problems of developing a shale gas industry in the UK.

"Secondly, the moratorium does not apply to other, equally damaging and unpopular methods of unconventional on-shore gas extraction.

"This means that Ellesmere Port is still under threat from IGas plans to flow test their well drilled in 2014, as they have always maintained that no fracking will be involved.

"We will be taking further legal advice and expect the outcome of the Planning Inquiry held earlier this year to be announced in January 2020.

"Thirdly, there is no mention of any of the other risks associated with fracking such as increased air pollution and the associated impacts on public health. Nor is there any acknowledgement of the role of fossil fuels in contributing to the climate crisis that is afflicting our planet.

"It is surely no coincidence that the Government’s eye-catching statement has been issued in the run up to a general election - and it would not have happened without the tireless work of anti-fracking campaigners raising awareness over many years.

"We would like to thank all our many supporters. Much as we hope it’s the beginning of the end for fracking, we are not convinced the Government is taking this seriously enough.

"We will continue to watch developments very carefully until the whole on-shore unconventional gas industry is consigned to history."