A fracking boss met Britain’s most senior civil servant for dinner – just a day after the company announced its controversial plan to drill for shale gas in Sussex.

Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, attended the event with the chief executive of Cuadrilla in a private room of the Marriot Hotel in Preston in May this year.

He was joined by four other senior Government officials including the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Other guests included representatives of the onshore oil and gas industry and service management company Carillion.

The meeting came to light in emails released to the environmental group Greenpeace in a Freedom of Information request.

It was organised by Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil which co-ordinates Government policy toward fracking. Its purpose was to discuss the development of fracking.

While it is not unusual for Sir Jeremy to meet leading international business figures its timing suggests it may have been called to reassure the industry of top level Government support for the plans for exploratory drilling in Balcombe – plans causing widespread public opposition at the time.

Greenpeace said the meeting and the messages appeared to suggest “a close relationship” between Cuadrilla and senior civil servants.

However a Cabinet Office spokeswoman said that Sir Jeremy regularly met with senior industry figures and said details of the meeting would have been published anyway under the Government’s transparency rules.