Chester Liberal Democrats hosted a public meeting discussing the controversial issue of “fracking” in the heart of a community that could be affected.

About 60 people gathered at Upton church hall, just a couple of miles from a field in Duttons Lane earmarked for a coal bed methane test drill, where anti-frackers have set up camp in a bid to prevent exploration work going ahead – fearing it could lead to full blown fracking.

Upton parish councillor Jean Evans chaired the meeting, which was addressed by Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate Cllr BobThompson (Hoole) and James Cameron of the Frack-Free Upton group which has been vociferous in its anti-fracking stance.

Cllr Thompson outlined his view on the options available to meet UK energy demand: nuclear, conventional extraction and unconventional extraction. He stressed that if fracking goes ahead, it must be carried out safely and that beauty spots are not destroyed in our “greed for fuel”. He also focused on the importance of anti-frackers having an alternative to provide future energy needs.

This led to a later contribution, highlighting that there was little evidence of people being ready to tackle the real enemy to the continuation of our way of life – climate change, and warning that we need to be willing to sacrifice some of our comforts if we want to avoid its potentially catastrophic effects.

Mr Cameron highlighted that coal bed methane lies nearer the surface than shale gas, but that it was virtually impossible if the company drills further than specified, to know whether it is a mistake or a deliberate attempt to find shale gas without permission.

Residents, the majority of whom were against fracking, highlighted a host of issues including proximity to schools and houses, effects on health, degradation of the environment and, most importantly, the potentially irreversible damage to the underground water-bearing rock or aquifer.

Some argued it was possible to carry out industrial processes safely, as evidenced by the nearby Stanlow refinery.