Fury over fracking letter support claim

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A row has erupted over a pro-fracking letter which claimed more than 100 Lancashire businesses supported plans to frack for gas in the county.

Anti-fracking campaigners say that they have since found that many of the signatories had not agreed to have their names included and did not back fracking.

Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Lancashire said the letter, sent by the North West Energy Task Force, was wrong and should be corrected.

But the task force which supports the potential shale gas industry said some of the signatories had felt intimidated by phone calls which questioned their support on the letter.

The anti-fracking campaigners deny this saying it was just a simple question to see if the businesses’ support was true.

Frack Free Lancashire said it uncovered the inconsistencies by conducting a telephone survey of a third of a businesses on the list, and found at least 15 had not agreed to add their support.

Gail Hodson of Frack Free Lancashire, who discovered the errors, said: “Given the widespread anti-fracking sentiment in the community alarm bells rang when we saw this list.

“We easily found out that many had not agreed to be on this list – or had never heard of it. Perhaps most interestingly, others, still, were actually against fracking.”

Furqan Naeem, North West Campaigner for Friends of the Earth said: “It is shocking that the North West Energy Task Force, funded by Cuadrilla, has claimed to have the support of businesses for fracking without their consent, and has tried to use this to influence the council”

“At best this is incompetence. North West Energy Task force should immediately correct their claims about local businesses who support fracking and ensure the accuracy of future statements.

“It is no surprise that many Lancashire businesses oppose fracking, which even the Government’s own draft report found could impact negatively on industries that are important to Lancashire, like farming and tourism.”

The survey took in 40 businesses on the list of 119 said to support fracking and found: 16 wished to be removed, 11 were still supportive, and 13 were not contactable.

But the North West Energy Task Force said after the publication of the letter to the editor, none of the signatories had raised concerns about their name appearing in support of shale gas.

A spokesman said if any of the names were there in error for whatever reason, or businesses wanted their names removing, they would be happy to do so. She added : “We are concerned that members of the public are being intimidated for their support of shale gas. We call on Frack Free Lancashire to respect people’s right to have their own views.

Steve Pye, chairman of Lancashire TV, added: “I’m aware a lot of supporters of shale in the local business community are being targeted by some opponents who are doing their cause no credit whatsoever in stooping to this level.

“We may disagree profoundly on certain points, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to behave in pressing your case. These bully-boy tactics overstep the mark.”