fracking
Protestors gather outside a council meeting to decide on two sites in Lancashire for fracking plants, at Lancashire County HallGetty

Thousands of protesters are expected to gather in Lancashire as the council decides whether to give permission for shale gas fracking to go ahead at two sites.

Gas exploration company Cuadrilla is applying to drill at two sites – Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood – on Lancashire's Fylde Coast.

Planning officers at Lancashire County Council have already recommended the site at Little Plumpton be approved for fracking but rejected Roseacre Wood over concerns regarding the increase in traffic it will bring to the area.

Councillors are now gathering to make a decision on both sites, with a conclusion hoped to be reached by the end of the week.

Hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, involves pumping water and chemicals into shale rock at high pressure. The practice has been met with heavy opposition by environmental groups over concerns that it pollutes water supplies and causes earthquakes. The practice is banned in Scotland, Wales, Germany, France and parts of the US.

Lancashire Police are preparing for any demonstrations that may take place outside County Hall, with extra officers being brought in to deal with around 2,000 protesters expected to descend to the area during the fracking talks.

Friends of the Earth's north-west campaigner Furqan Naeem said: "Fracking could have a hugely damaging impact on Lancashire residents and their environment, and cause more climate-changing pollution to be pumped into the atmosphere.

"Councillors must put local communities first, follow the example of Scotland and Wales, and say no to dirty fracking."

Officials in New York, where fracking has been banned since December 2014, have also urged the Lancashire council to refuse permission for fracking in the area.

A group of 850 from Elected Officials to Protect New York wrote a letter to the Lancashire councillors asking them to note the conclusions of the city's Department of Public Health, who concluded that fracking poses significant public health risks after completing a two-year study.

Martha Robertson, Tompkins County Legislator, from Elected Officials to Protect New York, said: "We have written to Lancashire's councillors as fellow elected representatives to urge them to heed the significant and growing evidence of problems and harms with fracking and to turn down Cuadrilla's planning applications.

"After studying the public health impacts of fracking for years, New York State Health Commissioner Dr Zucker was clear that he would not let his family live in a community with fracking.

"As elected officials, we share with Lancashire councillors a responsibility to protect our constituents, so we have written to show that it is possible to stand up to this dirty and dangerous industry and ensure residents' safety."