Anti-fracking campaigners have warned they are ‘ready and waiting’ to set up a huge protest camp on the Fylde coast if firms are given permission to drill for shale gas.
Protest group Residents Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF) say steps have already been taken to set up large-scale protests similar to those which caused major disruption in Balcombe, West Sussex – if gas firm Cuadrilla is given permission to frack.
The Balcombe protest, which at its height saw more than 1,000 people set up camp at a Cuadrilla exploration well, sparked major disruption with police making several arrests as campaigners tried to stop trucks loaded with materials needed for exploration getting on to the site.
Cuadrilla is the company in pole position to drill for shale gas on the Fylde coast by hydraulically fracturing rock deep underground.
The company has drilled at sites at Grange Hill near Singleton, Preese Hall, near Weeton, Becconshall near Banks and Anna’s Road, Westby.
Only the Preese Hall site has been hydraulically fractured – the process whereby water, sand and chemicals are pumped deep underground to fracture the shale.
And at a meeting held for residents in Poulton by RAFF, member Bob Dennett said: “If a company comes here to frack we will be ready and there will be a camp to protest and protect the residents.
“The people down at Balcombe were very intelligent and we need to embrace them if they come up here and help them out.”
Mr Dennett’s message won applause from the audience of campaigners and around 50 residents.
Sussex Police arrested 125 people over 65 days at the protest in Balcombe and cost the force £4m to police.
Tina Rothery, of RAFF, said a camp would be set up overnight if Cuadrilla were given the go-ahead to frack.
She added: “At Balcombe there was about 100 people staying there nightly or people like us who would do whatever we could, and support surged on the weekend. Numbers are impossible to know but we are more established here in Lancashire and have been fighting it for longer, so we expect it to be bigger.
“There are groups across the country ready to dive in over night and slow down the trucks, which is part of the strategy.”
Mr Dennett, speaking after Tuesday’s meeting, added: “A protest will work and eventually they (shale gas companies) will give up. We went down there to support them and they said they would come here and support us or wherever the support was needed.
“The people we have spoken to on the Fylde coast are prepared to protest and we are in the process of setting up a group in Blackpool to do this.”
The meeting, at The Cube in Poulton, saw two short anti-fracking DVDs to the audience.
One production claimed to reveal the destructive impact fracking has had on a small community in Pennsylvania, USA, after it was claimed their drinking water had become contaminated from the gases used in the drilling process.
Sandra Bach, 71, from The Nook, in Staining, attended the meeting with her husband Martin, 71.
Mrs Bach said: “We are trying to get people to come along to these meetings and Cuadrilla meetings and make up their own minds on fracking.”
A Cuadrilla spokesman said: “The safety of everyone on and near our sites remains Cuadrilla’s priority as we continue to carry out our exploration programme in a responsible manner.”
Camp ‘will be bigger than Balcombe’
Other fracking campaigners have backed up plans for a camp should Cuadrilla get the go-ahead to drill on the Fylde coast.
Gayzer Frackman, from Frack Free Fylde, said: “What happened in Balcombe highlighted fracking to the world, so we would be fully behind a camp like this.
“We need to show Cuadrilla that people in the community will go that extra mile. We have to show these companies that what they are doing is wrong because we want our children to grow up in a healthy environment.”
Peter Richie, co-ordinator of Blackpool and the Fylde Green Party, said: “If fracking is going to come to Lancashire then Cuadrilla is going to face similar, if not larger, opposition than they faced at Balcombe.
“The Green Party as a whole nationally, as well as on the Fylde coast, supports the anti-fracking campaign.”