Families protest at fracking hearing

Fracking protest at Blackpool Football Club
Fracking protest at Blackpool Football Club
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Families, children and even a 6ft tall rabbit were among protesters outside Blackpool Football Club for the 18th day of the public inquiry into fracking.

Campaigners from across Lancashire gathered to voice opposition to gas exploration company Cuadrilla’s appeal against Lancashire County Council’s decision not to allow test fracking at two sites on the Fylde.

Liz Stanton, from Preston, said she was afraid that fracking would industrialise the countryside between Blackpool and the Trough of Bowland and damage agriculture and tourism.

She said: “There are 26,000 jobs in renewable energy in Lancashire, we should be supporting them not fracking which could put people off coming to our countryside.”

Deborah Woods, of Cleveleys, said she was concerned about the potential for pollution of air, land and water.

She said: “I want to do something now to protect the future of our children.”

Gayzer Frackman, from Lytham, said: “There is no such thing as ‘gold standard’ regulation. The Environment Agency, the health and Safety Executive and DECC have not been called to give evidence at this inquiry and that is wrong.

“The HSE never ever visited the Preese Hall fracking site after it had caused the earth tremors which halted fracking in 2011.”

Meanwhile, inside the stadium, inspector Wendy McKay heard the final summing up evidence from each of the interested parties in the inquiry before it closes on Wednesday. Coun Peter Collins, from Newton-with-Clifton Parish Council, went first and reiterated that the rural roads were too narrow and windy for 16.5m long articulated trucks to negotiate safely without putting other road users, pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders in danger.

Next came Ashley Bowes, counsel for the Preston New Road Action Group. He argued that the two fracking applications should be judged against the local development plan – the local waste plans and the Fylde Local Plan.

He said Cuadrilla’s assertion that local plans were “silent” on hydrocarbons and therefore should be discounted, instead he said it was consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework.

He also said the The Ministers Written Statement of September 16 did not presume support for fracking in any event, instead it supported “Sustainable” projects .

He said the Cuadrilla schemes were not sustainable due to the adverse effects they would have on the landscape, visually and residents through noise.

He said: “The effects of 14 months of sleep disturbance and the effects on the tourism industry need to be taken into account.”

Babs Murphy spoke on behalf of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, which was supporting Cuadrilla’s appeal. She said: “If shale gas is found to be commercially viable, we want local businesses and local people to have the first choice on employment.”

She said no-one knew how many jobs would be created but it could be many thousands. She said the only way to find out was to explore.

She said: “The risks to tourism and agriculture are not inevitable. Stay Blackpool, which represents hoteliers, supports shale gas development.”

Estelle Dehon, of Friends of the Earth, said policy DM2 in the Lancashire mineral plans said proposals should be refused unless economic, social and environmental harms could be reduced or eliminated.

She said weight attached to the ministerial statement was reduced as the Government had since abandoned carbon capture technology and the Paris agreement had been signed.