FRIENDS of the Earth and campaigners have criticised authority figures for not attending a fracking meeting.
They have long been trying to arrange a public information evening on hydraulic fracturing.
The process, known as fracking, pumps high-pressure liquid into the earth to open fissures and extract shale gas.
Organisers said MP Andrew Tyrie, the Environment Agency and drilling company Celtique Energy all declined to appear.
“I’m disappointed that Andrew Tyrie is not able to speak in an open debate to explain to his constituents his views on unconventional oil or gas extraction,” said Chichester resident Sarah Sharp.
“Politicians and the fracking industry keep saying they want a public debate on fracking, yet we’ve struggled to find people prepared to defend the practice.
“Thankfully two independent oil and gas consultants have agreed to attend and we now have a really interesting and balanced panel.”
Andrew Tyrie has held over half a dozen public meetings across his constituency since Christmas, including one in Chichester on January 31, attended by about a hundred people.
The Observer reported on this meeting last week and shale gas was one of the topics of interest.
A spokeswoman for Friends of the Earth said Chichester residents hoped to create an ‘open, non-political evening’, designed to learn more about fracking and how companies got permission to drill.
“Despite residents’ attempts to seek a date that would be convenient for Andrew Tyrie, they were unable to get a positive response from his office,” she said.
“Celtique Energy – the company applying to test for oil or gas at Fernhurst and Wisborough Green – refused to attend and the Environment Agency were also unable to join the panel.
“On top of this, Chichester City Council withdrew an offer to use the Assembly Rooms.”
However, she said a meeting would now take place at St George’s Church, in Cleveland Road, tonight at 7.30pm, with a number of speakers confirmed including South Downs National Park Authority chief executive Trevor Beattie.
Brenda Pollack, south-east campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Fracking companies seem very wary of being on public platforms, but I’m surprised the local MP would not attend.
“The prime minister has called those opposing fracking ‘irrational’, but we are open to discussion and debate on fracking and the evidence that supports our huge concern.”
Speaking at the January meeting, Mr Tyrie said he supported the need for energy development, but questioned the national park as a site for large-scale exploration and fracking.
“It is quite clear to me that we should keep our minds open to new forms of technology to prevent this rise in energy prices,” he said.