Campaigners have lost a last-minute legal challenge to block fracking in Lancashire, paving the way for the shale gas firm Cuadrilla to start operating within hours.

The Lancashire resident Robert Dennett won an interim injunction last Friday against Lancashire county council, putting a temporary halt to the start of fracking at a well outside Blackpool.

His lawyers argued on Thursday that the council’s emergency planning was inadequate in the event of an incident at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site. But on Friday a high court judge rejected the request for an injunction, on the grounds that the council had not failed in its duties regarding civil contingency planning.

The court’s decision removes the final barrier to fracking starting again in the UK after a hiatus of seven years.

Lawyers for Cuadrilla had said it was incurring costs of £94,000 for every day it was injuncted and stopped from fracking.

The company has said it intends to start fracking this week, with the oil services firm Schlumberger pumping water, chemicals and sand underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock 2km below the surface. The operation is expect to take up to three months.

Dennett said: “[I’m] obviously disappointed. We will continue to be defiant and fight this. We will never give up. We’ve put too much effort in to throw the towel in.”

Jonathan Bartley, the Green party co-leader, said the court verdict was a “real blow”, coming just days after a UN climate report said fossil fuel use must be cut dramatically to avoid dangerous global warming.

He vowed to continue his opposition to fracking and said public attitudes were hardening against the industry.

“We will fight on. It means direct action. We’ll be taking the fight to the fracking companies,” Bartley told the Guardian outside the court.

Marc Willers QC, representing Dennett, had asked for a two-week interim injunction while the court considered the matter. “It’s a small price to pay for the safety of local residents,” he told a packed courtroom.

But lawyers for Cuadrilla had argued there was no serious case to be tried because the ultimate authority for whether the company could frack was not the local authority but the business secretary, Greg Clark, who issued a fracking consent this summer.

Fracking opponents have pledged to hold a national climate change rally at a farm near Cuadrilla’s site later this month. As well as opposing fracking at Preston New Road, the event will call for the release of three fracking activists who were recently jailed over their protests at the site last year.

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