Businesses reject fracking talks call

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Fylde coast business chiefs have turned down calls to debate with anti-fracking campaigners after a week-long protest camp.

The invitation came as members of Frack Free Lancashire began to oversee the final clean-up from the Reclaim The Power camp, which saw hundreds of demonstrators from across the country descend on a field of the A583, near Westby, close to where energy company Cuadrilla plans to carry out the controversial shale gas extraction process in future.

Meanwhile police are continuing to investigate an incident of aggravated trespass after around 15 protesters entered the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce building on Amy Johnson Way, South Shore, during a “day of action” by some members of the camp on Monday.

Babs Murphy, the Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive, was among those to condemn the occupation of the office.

However, Tina Rothery, from Residents Action on Fylde Fracking, has now called on the organisation to talk to local protest groups to address their concerns about the issue.

She said: “We’d call on the Chamber of Commerce, and Babs Murphy in particular, because we’d love nothing more than meeting with them or to hold a public debate.

“We believe there can’t be enough opportunities to talk about fracking honestly, openly and transparently.”

In response, Mrs Murphy said she felt it was not the Chamber’s place to discuss the science behind the controversial process, which involves injecting water and chemicals at high pressure into shale rock deep beneath the surface to release gas.

She said: “Our position is very straightforward. We do support this new industry coming to Lancashire.

“However, this support is not unconditional. Our job is not to talk about the science behind that because there are far greater scientific minds that will be suggesting this industry, with the right regulation, will be as safe as any other energy extraction process.”

Most protesters have now left the Preston New Road site but members of an adjacent camp set up by Fylde-based campaigners are set to remain for around a further week while the site is tidied up.

Ms Rothery added: “We’d like to spend a final week getting the camp tidied up.

“Reclaim the Power did a fine job but we’ve got to dust it off.”

In response to Monday’s events at Amy Johnson Way, a spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “This is being treated as an offence of aggravated trespass and efforts are being made to identify those people who illegally entered the building.

“It was not felt appropriate given all the circumstances to make arrests at the time and we have obtained evidence that will assist the identification of those responsible.

“Lancashire Police will always endeavour to facilitate lawful and peaceful protest but where the law is broken we will take appropriate action.