fracking uk protest
Fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood (4th L) campaigns with fellow anti-fracking protesters gathering near the entrance to the Preston New Road drill site where energy firm Cuadrilla Resources have commenced fracking (hydraulic fracturing) operations this week
Blackpool has been hit by four earthquakes just days after the controversial practice of fracking began again in the area.

The latest quake hit this afternoon at levels where scientists say the process should 'proceed with caution.'

Fracking was stopped for years after two earthquakes in Lancashire and experts have now raised fears that 'there may be trouble ahead.'

David Smythe, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics, University of Glasgow, told 'Recent research by Stanford University shows that these tiny tremors can be indicators of bigger quakes to follow - like canaries in a coal-mine.

'The problem for Cuadrilla is that if it carries on regardless, bigger earthquakes may well be triggered.

Cuadrilla fracking site in Preston New
© PA
A worker at the Cuadrilla fracking site in Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, Lancashire
Blackpool, Lancashire, has been at the centre of the angry debate over fracking after two earthquakes in 2011 forced the practice to stop.

Initial studies by the British Geological Society suggested the quakes were linked to the fracking activities while an independent report found 'most likely, the repeated seismicity was induced by direct injection of fluid into the fault zone.'

Earlier this week, gas firm Cuadrilla announced they were back at one of their shale gas drilling sites after campaigners lost a last-minute legal challenge at the high court.

Less than 72 hours later, Blackpool was hit with three minor quakes on Thursday at 3.48pm, 10.54pm and 11.44pm.

They were at minus levels and the low levels of seismic activity meant they would not have been felt by residents.

However on Friday afternoon at 1.20pm, Blackpool was hit by quake with a 0.3 magnitude, which experts are now monitoring because it has reached a level where fracking should be reconsidered.

Rose Dickinson, Friends of the Earth campaigner told 'Today has been seismic activity at the fracking site in Lancashire hitting amber on the government's own monitoring scale, meaning Cuadrilla has to "proceed at caution".

'It's only been 4 days since they started fracking. This is why it's right that this site has to be so closely monitored, and it should continue to be.'

Fracking, or Hydraulic Fracturing, involves pumping vast quantities of water and chemicals into unstable rock to release combustible gas.

Drilling for shale gas is still at an exploratory phase. However, reserves of shale gas have been identified across large swathes of the UK, particularly in northern England.

Comment: Unsurprisingly, they're trialing the potentially deadly 'exploratory' phase in the North of England, which is also one of the poorest regions in the UK.

More than 100 licences have been awarded by the government, allowing firms to pursue a range of oil and gas exploration activities in certain areas.

Since the 2011 earthquakes, local residents and environmental campaigners have been fighting Cuadrilla's plan to restart their Lancashire operations.

However last week, the firm fought off an 11th hour legal challenge brought by a retired Lancashire businessman, Bob Bennett, against Lancashire county council who had granted the green light.

On Monday, Cuadrilla began fracking operations at their Preston New Road site, Lancashire.

On Thursday, three quakes were felt near Penny Farm, just west of the fracturing site measuring -0.2, -0.8 and -0.3, according to the British Geological Survey.

Friday's went into positive territory, with a depth of 3km and reaching 0.3 on the scale.

The industry is regulated by a traffic light system, introduced after the 2011 tremors.

Green is zero-magnitude on the Richter scale, amber is anything up to 0.5, meaning fracking should proceed with caution and potentially at a slower rate.

Red is anything at 0.5-magnitude or greater, meaning operations are suspended immediately.

Cuadrilla have said the latest quakes are nothing to be concerned about because they are so low on the scale.

The Government has been pro-fracking despite concerns over climate change.

When Theresa May came to power, she announced householders living near shale wells would enjoy a 'frackpot' payout of up to £10,000 each.

Comment: That payout wouldn't even count as a down payment on a new home (which will be needed once the one you're living is no longer considered habitable). The environmental devastation, and in the North which includes swathes of farmland and coastal areas, would last for generations and the cost is incalculable.

However the UN's Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change launched a new report only two weeks ago bringing forward the dangerous limits of climate change and calling on world leaders to take immediate action to bring global warming under control by 2040.

The extensive list of measures required includes a diverse energy mix of 85 per cent renewables and practically no coal, oil or gas.

Today campaign group Frack Free Lancashire said: 'We will continue to monitor these events closely. Considering the relevant past history with the Fylde Coast's geology and having two significant seismic events which effectively shut down the fracking industry, all eyes are currently on Cuadrilla.

'These events may be dismissed as being minor and "can't be felt" but what occurs under the earth is beyond anyone's control.'

Environmental campaigners and local residents are planning to hold a 'national climate crisis rally' later this month.

They have been at the Preston New Road site campaigning against fracking the start.

In the same week, three anti-fracking protesters jailed for causing a public nuisance at the Preston New Road site were freed by the Court of Appeal.

Soil scientist Simon Blevins, 26, from Sheffield, and teacher Richard Roberts, 36, of London, were both jailed for 16 months, while piano restorer Rich Loizou, 31, from Devon, was given 15 months in September.

The trio had climbed onto lorries in a protest that lasted almost 100 hours.

But their sentences were replaced with conditional discharges by three senior judges sitting in London on Wednesday.

Speaking about Thursday's earthquakes, a spokesman for Cuadrilla said: 'Three microseismic events were detected yesterday by the highly sensitive Traffic Light System Cuadrilla has installed around the Preston New Road site and were very far below levels that could be felt at surface.

'The recordings from these seismometers are shared with the British Geological Survey to help them reassure the public that operations are continuing safely as planned.

'We take the monitoring and regulation of seismicity seriously, with daily reports sent to the regulators.

'The microseismic events recorded were extremely low and well within the Green Light threshold and confirm that the monitoring system is working to the highest standard.'