Plans to overturn ancient laws to allow fracking are “despicable”, says campaigners.

The Government is looking to change the law so firms can drill under houses without permission of the landowners.

Ministers are preparing to overhaul the trespass legislation that could have scuppered the plans of energy companies in Sussex.

It has been reported a British Geological Survey report to be published within weeks will reveal the Weald could contain up to a third of the reserves of oil and gas of the North Sea.

Landowner Marcus Adams was one of a number of campaigners who had first sought to use the old law to stop Celtique from exploratory drilling under their land in Fernhurst.

He said: “Frankly, I think this is despicable, and hopefully will become a major electoral issue. The fact that this Government, that I have supported all my adult life, wants to remove my rights so that a few individuals and their (mostly foreign) financial backers can make a quick buck, demonstrates just how little respect it has for the views of the majority of people.

“The vast majority of people living in Fernhurst do not want this development to go ahead and are becoming increasingly vocal about it. The word is also spreading to many other parts of the country.”

Under current law, firms need permission from landowners to drill fracking tunnels.

The change to the law is expected to be included in the Government's proposed Growth Bill.

It is thought the energy industry is unwilling to invest hundreds of millions of pounds into exploring the potentially huge resources under Sussex until the potential banana skin of trespass law has been reformed.

Compensation of about £100 could be offered to landowners.

Opponents argue the fracking process could cause earthquakes, pollute water, blight the countryside and affect house prices.