A new campaign group to back fracking has launched in Blackpool.
Lancashire for Shale, a pro-shale gas group funded by local businesses and industry, held its launch reception for Lancashire firms at the White Tower restaurant to call on local and national decision-makers to get behind onshore natural gas development.
It is made up of local businesses and residents that “believe natural gas from Lancashire’s shale will create opportunities for our businesses, new jobs and much-needed investment for our county.”
Ahead of the launch, more than 95 local business leaders and residents, including Fylde’s David Haythornthwaite, Claire Smith, president of Stay Blackpool, Tony Raynor of Abbey Telecom and Babs Murphy from the North and Western Lancashire Chambers of Commerce, signed a letter to local media calling on all decision-makers, both national and local, to work together to ensure that Lancashire does not miss out on the jobs and investment offered.
If the development of shale gas in Lancashire does get the green light, then the coalition of business leaders and residents said it would “create opportunities for our businesses, new jobs, and much-needed investment for our county.”
According to independent February 2016 polling by Comres, commissioned by the North West Energy Task Force, a majority of Lancashire’s businesses believe that shale gas development would boost the local economy. Similarly, independent polling by the European Commission from September 2015 showed a majority (53%) of Lancashire residents believed shale “brings new opportunities to me and my region”. The second highest level in Europe.
David Haythornthwaite, who has provided funding to the group, said: “Lancashire for Shale, will hopefully speak for the majority of Lancashire residents and businesses. I believe that most people recognise that the development of shale will be good for jobs and economic growth in the county but critically right here on the Fylde Coast.
“The exploration and potential development of natural gas from shale presents a once in a generation opportunity which we must not miss.”
Claire Smith, of Stay Blackpool and former panellist at the North West Energy Task Force, said: “In coming together we can more effectively make the case for shale and demonstrate the strength of support in the county for shale gas ahead of the Secretary of State’s decision.
“We call on business, industry and policy-makers to get behind shale to ensure that Lancashire seizes this incredible opportunity for jobs and the community.”
But opponents of fracking who say it will damage the environment and hit other business attacked the new group.
Claire Stephenson from Preston New Road Action group said: “It’s very interesting that yet again, another pro-shale initiative has been launched which involves the same group of people, funded by industry and vested interests.
“None of these people speak on behalf of Lancashire or its residents and if they’d successfully managed to digest all of the facts behind fracking in Lancashire, they may not be offering support.”
Barbara Richardson speaking on behalf of Frack Free Lancashire stated: “Local communities would face risks to the local environment and their health for many years. And despite the several years of disruption from Cuadrilla’s proposed exploration at Roseacre and Preston New Road, the sites would create only 11 net jobs each.
“How they can claim to speak for the majority of Lancashire residents and businesses is nothing more than conjecture.