PROTESTERS challenged the boss of a civil engineering firm as they handed in a petition calling on the company to end its involvement in fracking.

Horwich-based AE Yates Ltd is approaching the end of its contract with Cuadrilla to build a shale gas exploration site at the controversial Little Plumpton site in Lancashire.

Members of Frack Free Greater Manchester and Bolton Against Fracking gathered at the Lostock Industrial Estate yesterday to deliver a petition, which asks the firm to terminate its current contract and pledge not to work with any fracking companies in the future.

Ali Abbas, of Frack Free Greater Manchester, said: “Having 1,000 signatures on this petition shows how unpopular fracking is and how much of a risk there is to companies involved with it.

“Fracking is damaging the lives of people in Lancashire and also harming businesses. The question is whether these firms want to be on the right side of history.

“We don’t want fracking here and we don’t want local companies involved.”

AE Yates chief executive Paul Boron spoke to the protesters and told them that no decision had been taken on whether to be involved in future fracking schemes.

He told the crowd: “I was aware that there would be resistance to the project and, at the end of the day, I take the view that the secretary of state — whether misguided or otherwise — has said that fracking is desirable for the country. He says it is essential for the country.”

Mr Boron added that he understood the position taken by protesters and would report their concerns to the company’s board.