Fylde Anti-fracking group in row over leaflet

Michael Roberts of Garstang who wrote to the Advertising Standards Agency about a RAFF leaflet
Michael Roberts of Garstang who wrote to the Advertising Standards Agency about a RAFF leaflet
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A row has erupted over an anti-fracking group newsletter which ended with the advertising watchdog being called in.

Residents’ Action on Fylde Fracking were contacted by the Advertising Standards Authority after members of the public complained about a leaflet put out by the campaing group.

RAFF is opposing energy company Cuadrilla’s bid to drill up to four wells and test for gas at two sites on the Fylde coast.

Lancashire County Council will on January 28 rule on whether to allow the controversial extraction process, which involves injected high pressure water and chemicals to free gas from deep lying shale rock, to go ahead.

RAFF says it risks causing earth tremors, air and water pollution and will change the nature of the Fylde’s rural 
appearance.

However other groups support fracking, saying it will create much-needed local jobs and bring energy security.

Michael Roberts, a retired vicar and Oxford graduate geologist living near Garstang, and Ken Wilkinson, a former oil and gas industry graduate engineer, complained to the Advertising Standards Authority after being given copies of the leaflet entitled Shale Gas – The Facts, distributed in Lancashire that they believed to be deliberately misleading.

They said it used images and described practices from the United States that are not permitted in the highly regulated UK. They also questioned some of the scientific data included in the leaflet.

The ASA launched an investigation, during which it provisionally upheld many of their complaints. Further submissions were then made by both parties to the ASA.

But while the investigation was under way, RAFF withdrew the leaflet, telling the ASA that it accepted that the content needed updating.

Michael Roberts said: “We are delighted that RAFF will be withdrawing its anti-fracking leaflet as a result of our complaint to the ASA. The people of Lancashire deserve to have access to the facts about shale gas exploration to help them reach an informed decision about it.

“The RAFF leaflet contained a number of misleading assertions and technical inaccuracies that would leave most readers with a very skewed and negative impression of what shale gas extraction is likely to mean for the communities where it takes place.”

However Bob Dennett, from RAFF, said: “It is not true that we were ordered to withdraw this newsletter. It was an old newsletter which has been superseded anyway. New research and information has come out since then.

“We contested the complaints with evidence but they came back to us with more queries so to save hours of further work we decided to withdraw it.

“We are coming into a crucial period in the campaign so the timing of this is no 
coincidence.”