Fylde campaigners say the fight against shale will continue

The anti-fracking demonstration at Preston New Rowd, following the Government's decision to allow the process to go ahead

Campaigners gathered at one of the two sites earmarked for test fracking on the Fylde and vowed: ‘The battle is not over yet’.

Comunities secretary Sajid Javed last week allowed an appeal by gas exploration firm Cuadrilla to test frack on land at Little Plumpton off Preston New Road.

This followed a planning inspector’s report recommending approval for the site but refusal of a similar application at Roseacre due to the road system being unsuitable for HGVs.

However, he said he would be “minded to allow” the second bid if Cuadrilla come up with a suitable traffic management plan.

Residents and environmentalists opposed to fracking staged a protest at Preston New Road to show they would continue to fight on despite the rulings.

Some wore black and carried banners which said democracy had died last Thursday when Sajid Javid, granted planning permission despite it being refused by Lancashire County Council in June 2015.

Meanwhile Fylde MP Mark Menzies has re-iterated his opposition to both applications and demanded the Roseacre bid be thrown out permanently. He said: “I am disappointed by the decision over the Preston New Road site as I have said many times that councillors made their decision following a thorough and lengthy debate on the issues involved and those decisions should be upheld.

“I have had deep-seated concerns about the traffic issues around that site (Roseacre) since it was first proposed and having allowed the official process to run its course I would have to say that, in my view, they appear to be insurmountable and that site should not go ahead. I will be writing to the Secretary of State.

“While I may be disappointed with these decisions, now is not the time to sit back and be despondent but to carry on working hard to ensure the Government meets its responsibilities surrounding the regulation of this industry.”

On the Roseacre issue, Barbara Richardson from the Roseacre Awareness Group, said: “Why are they being allowed to make further representations? How many bites of the cherry do they get? Enough until they can railroad through?

“If this does not smack of pre-determination what does? How can the LCC Highways Officer, LCC’s Planning Officer, LCC’s Development Control Committee and now an independent Planning Inspector, all experts, advice be ignored when they categorically say that the Roseacre Wood site is unsuitable?”

Tina Rothery, from the Lancashire Nannies group, who helped organise the latest protest, said further protests were inevitable. She said: “The government and industry had the chance to accept the reasoned findings of a local parish, borough and county council, that along with many in the community, said no to fracking.

“Instead they chose to make those council officers impotent – to deny them a voice as they deny the community ours.

“We have had a genuinely reasonable and fair relationship with the local Lancashire Police – unique for those of us who experienced Balcombe and Barton Moss as well as London actions. Our local force has been mainly the same faces for five years now and they are very aware of our reasonable behaviour as well as our exhaustive lawful attempts to be heard.

“They know us to be parents, employers, residents… as well as activists and, like our local media, who too have journeyed with us on this heck of a ride, we are all reaching the same milestones.

“I don’t want any of this to change, but everything will change because the government just silenced us and is telling us to act negligently in our responsibilities as parents.”

Cuadrilla however welcomed the decision and insisted that test fracking could be carried out safely and responsibly at Preston New Road and at Roseacre.

It said a developed onshore gas industry could create thousands of jobs give the country energy security and boost the economy. Drilling could start as soon as April and fracking by the end of 2017.

A spokesman for Cuadrilla today said: “We respect the right to peaceful protest.”

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