Fracking comments peer Lord Howell meant North West

Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell said it was a "stupid error" to mention anywhere at all

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The Conservative peer criticised for saying fracking should take place in "desolate" areas of the North East has revealed he was actually referring to the North West.

Lord Howell, a former government energy policy adviser, made his original remarks about fracking on Tuesday.

He told the Daily Telegraph he was actually talking about "the drilling going on off the Lancashire coast".

Lord Howell of Guildford later apologised for any offence caused.

'Stupid error'

He had said that fracking, a form of shale gas extraction, should take place in the North East because there were large uninhabited areas.

But he told the newspaper north-east England was not "in his mind at all" when he made the comments "but it came out of my mouth as the North East".

He said it was a "stupid error" to mention anywhere at all.

Lord Howell added: "The general story is right - that we want the derricks for fracking to be far away from residences in unloved places that are not environmentally sensitive.

"It's odd that they've decided to do this in sensitive places down in Sussex."

Ian Roberts from anti-fracking group Resident Action On Fylde Fracking said the mistake was "not funny at all" and described Lord Howell as "ignorant".

"This man until recently has been a government adviser on energy policy and he is George Osborne's father-in-law so he is not some old buffoon who is getting a bit confused," he said.

Downing Street said on Tuesday Lord Howell did not speak for the government.

Test drilling

He is understood to have left his role as the government's energy policy adviser in April.

Fracking uses high-pressure liquid pumped deep underground to fracture shale rock and release gas.

Cuadrilla Resources owns licences to test drill for shale gas in the UK.

It owns five sites in Lancashire where exploratory tests for shale gas have been carried out, but the firm said there was no current activity in county.

The energy company has two current planning applications in with Lancashire County Council to test drill at its site in Banks and Clifton.

It announced in June it was also going to apply for six more permits to do exploratory testing at sites to be confirmed.

Cuadrilla also owns three sites in Sussex - Balcombe, Cowden and Lingfield.

It has planning permission to test for oil in Balcombe.

Protesters have delayed the company's plans to start drilling at the woodland site.

Fracking was temporarily banned in the UK after it was blamed for two earth tremors in Blackpool in 2011.

A government report published in June 2012 concluded fracking was safe if adequately monitored.

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