Campaigners have criticised a Government department for paying people to take part in a fracking survey while the public inquiry is going on.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)has admitted it is carrying out the survey in Lancashire, and other places, to try to gauge people’s views on the controversial method of extracting gas from underground shale rocks.
But residents have said DECC has been acting inappropriately by offering to pay for opinions – and by excluding people who say they are opposed to fracking.
The Preston New Road Action Group said parents were being approached on their way to taking children to school by researchers and that a notice was put up in Wesham Post Office asking for volunteers to take part in a two-day workshop, in return for payment of £180.
Claire Stephenson, from Preston New Road Action Group, said: “It’s shocking that DECC would choose this insensitive time period to begin canvassing for opinions on fracking that don’t include actually being against this form of fossil fuel extraction.
“We are mid-way through a sizeable and stressful Public Inquiry for Cuadrilla’s appeals, where local communities are fighting to retain their ways of life. It seems very inflammatory to attempt to garner what seems to be underhand support for the industry by excluding people who already have formulated views against fracking.”
But a DECC spokesman said the researchers were not just avoiding people with anti-fracking views but they were also avoiding those who said they were pro-fracking.
He said: “The aim of the research, which will be published in full, is not to change opinions but to understand what influences an undecided person’s view on fracking.
“For this reason participants were sought who have not already formed a strong opinion, positive or negative.
“This is standard practice for government research to ensure it is transparent and accountable. Financial incentives are a standard part of social research. People participating will spend 12 hours, spread over two Saturdays, in workshops.”