Councillors join Fylde anti-fracking lock-on protest

Anti-fracking campaigners have hit out at claims that people protesting at a Fylde drill  site are all 'professional' protesters.

Monday, 3rd July 2017, 4:40 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:43 am
County Councillor Gina Dowding and Fylde resident Nick Danby at the 13-person lock-on at Preston New Road

Responding to criticism from a variety of sources, they said the 13 people locked together at the Preston New Road site on Monday were all from the county and included three local councillors.

Police put a contra-flow traffic light system in place on the A583 near Little Plumpton so they could remove the protesters safely.

The group arrived at the site at around 3am where the company’s main drilling rig is expected soon, and blockaded the entrance, locking themselves to heavy objects to stop vehicles entering the site.

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The anti-fracking protest at Preston New Road near Little Plumpton

Tina Rothery from the Lancashire Nanas group said: “We get all sorts of comments some very unpleasant but also that we are all from outside the area and being paid to be here.“That is just lies. This protest today shows that. These people must underestimate the commitment that some people have about causes they are passionate about.

“No-one here is doing this for themselves or monetary gain. We are doing it for others, for our children and grandchildren. I am not on benefits. I gave up a well paid job to do this. I did not want to but feel it is so important.”

Lancashire County Councillor Gina Dowding, who was one of the councillors taking part in this direct action, said: “It’s abundantly clear that when it comes to fracking, local councils have been rendered weak and helpless.

“I feel I need to be here with the community to say that we won’t roll over and accept this. I do not think it is bringing the council into disrepute. We are doing this for the greater good.”

The anti-fracking protest at Preston New Road near Little Plumpton

Fylde Borough Councillor for Warton and Westby, Julie Brickles, said: “I’m sometimes called the anti-fracking councillor. I strongly disagree with this: I’m the pro-community councillor and Westby is my community. Residents are rightly scared and we have now run out of options.”

Kirkham Town Councillor, Miranda Cox said: “When your community and family is threatened, you are often left with little choice but to take direct action. As a councillor and member of this community, I have been left with no more alternatives.

“I feel our way of life locally is under attack by an industry that, backed by a distant central government, is seeking to turn Fylde and Lancashire into the largest gas field in Europe.”

Nick Danby, a resident of Inskip and retired civil servant,said: “I believe that the imposition of fracking on our communities is unfair and unjust and it makes a mockery of local democracy.

"I have never been inside a courtroom before but, having exhausted all other legitimate means of resistance, I now feel that I have no choice but to continue my protest in the only way left available to me.”

The protesters said the action was part of national campaign group Reclaim the Power’s Rolling Resistance month of action in July supporting local community efforts to stop fracking in Lancashire.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid ruled in favour of fracking at Preston New Road following a six week planning inquiry. Two appeals are to be heard against that decision next month in London.

Fracking supporters say it will bring jobs and provide a home-sourced supply of gas for industry and homes.

A spokesman for pro-shale group Backing Fracking said: “It is bad enough that national activists are causing disruption for residents and businesses on Preston New Road, but to see councillors now involve themselves in unlawful behaviour is beyond the pale.

"It would appear that their involvement in today's direct action is politically motivated. If that's the case, they should be using the channels and mechanisms available to them as councillors rather than breaking the law and bringing their respective councils into disrepute."