Row over fracking survey

Residents and neighbours of Roseacre village gather to protest against fracking in the area
Residents and neighbours of Roseacre village gather to protest against fracking in the area
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A pro-fracking group has hailed a new survey which highlights the benefits of a shale gas industry in Lancashire – but opponents say they are just cherry-picking.

The EU polled 6,000 people in various regions where fracking is planned to test attitudes to the controversial industry.

Supporters say fracking will provide energy, jobs and boost the economy, opponents say it is a threat to the environment, health and homes. Two bids to frack on the Fylde were rejected by Lancashire County Council this year but energy company Cuadrilla have appealed to the Planning Inspectorate.

The North West Energy Task Force, which is supported by Cuadrilla and Centrica, said the survey showed a majority (53 per cent) of Lancashire residents believe shale gas “brings new opportunities for me or my region”, the second-highest of the regions polled after Poland.

The results show that residents had the highest levels of agreement, of 12 European regions surveyed, that shale gas would benefit local jobs and revenues.

Lancastrians were among the least likely to want a ban on shale gas developments. more than three quarters of those polled did not support an EU ban on shale developments.

The Eurobarometer Survey, conducted on the behalf of the European Commission, reveals 90 per cent cited the local jobs opportunities that shale gas could bring to the region as a benefit of shale developments.

The survey also revealed that 64 per cent viewed a domestic source of energy as a “potential opportunity”.

Lancastrians scored some of the highest levels of agreement of the European regions surveyed about the benefits of shale. Responses also showed that 47 per cent felt that shale developments would boost local skills and 43 per cent act as “a source of attraction for other businesses and services”.

But Barbara Richardson from the Roseacre Awareness Group said: “It is still our experience, in the areas where fracking is being proposed, where people and businesses are fully informed about the potential impacts, that the majority of people are actually opposed. This is borne also borne out by DECC’s own recent surveys into public opinion and which prove the numbers who oppose fracking are growing.”

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chambers of Commerce, said: “The results of the Eurobarometer survey show most Lancastrians recognise the positive impact that shale could have for jobs, local revenues and economic growth in the region.

“Opponents of shale are a small and vocal minority.

“Most people recognise their strident tone should not
be allowed to prevent Lancashire securing the maximum local benefit from our
 shale gas reserves.”

But opponents said the NWETF had ignored less favourable findings of the survey.

Bob Dennett from Frack Free Lancashire said: “The report cannot be used as an accurate barometer to gauge support for shale gas in Lancashire, the NWETF has manipulated the data to reflect the opinion that they want to promote.

For example there were only 500 respondents which only accounts for 0.034% of the Lancashire population of 1.45million (2006 Census), there is no information on how the respondents were selected and as we know from similar surveys carried out by this industry in Lancashire specific demographics have been targeted, such as areas of high unemployment and those who have spent the least time in education.

The NWETF fails to mention that 63% of Lancashire respondents believed that these projects will bring further challenges such as pollution to the water and air.

In contrast to the Eurobarometer the Department of Climate Change (DECC) published their Shale Opinion Tracker report, at much the same time, which gives an entirely different picture and states that:’Support for fracking appears to be linked to awareness where those who are most aware, having done their own research, are more likely to be opposed to fracking whereas those who are least aware are more likely to be in support of it.’”