Anti-fracking camp ‘may target firms’

Reclaim the Power meeting at Blackpool Hilton
Reclaim the Power meeting at Blackpool Hilton
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A campaign group set to camp near Blackpool as part of an anti- fracking protest may demonstrate outside town centre businesses.

Members of No Dash For Gas – an organisation of activists and campaigners which is to stage a Reclaim the Power 
action camp on the Fylde coast next week – spoke to fracking campaigners and residents about the plans for the event, which begins next Thursday.

After a period of setting up, the group, which is expected to bring up to 1,000 campaigners to the area, will host seminars and information events on its campsite before ‘action days’ on Sunday and Monday.

Energy company Cuadrilla Resources is proposing to drill and frack two gas exploration wells on the Fylde coast - at Rosecare and Little Plumpton.

The exact location of the camp has not yet been revealed by organisers.

But during a question and answer session at the meeting at Blackpool Hilton last night, attended by around 200 residents and campaigners, resident Marjorie Nye said: “The business fraternity is just looking at the jobs, they are on the side of the fracking. How can we get through to the business community that this is about more than money and jobs?”

No Dash For Gas’ Danni Paffard said the business community could be “targeted” during a day of action.

She said: “If the business community needs this message, and there are people who need to hear our message, those are places we can target.”

Earlier, she told the meeting: “Blackpool is such a beautiful place with an inspiring community. We want to give you all we can, and we want to learn from you guys.”

The same organisation held a six-day action camp at Balcombe last year against plans to frack - the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract shale gas - in the Sussex village. It reportedly ran up a bill of £4m in police resources.

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Paffard added: “We think it was completely necessary to police to that extent.”

But news of the camp has concerned local business people and some residents.

Members of the business group the North West Energy Task Force, which backs the development of a shale gas industry on the Fylde, said they were concerned about policing costs and its detrimental effects on tourism.

Steve Pye, of Small Business TV, has written to Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw, demanding action.

He said: “As a taxpayer, I would be very annoyed to see the costs of policing this are met by locals and not the protestors themselves.

“In Balcombe the police costs were £40,000 a day – how on earth can the Fylde coast manage to pay those costs when there are severe cutbacks in local services with people losing their jobs.”

Claire Smith, President of hotelier group Stay Blackpool, said: “The last thing we need is any risk or threat to trade. I urge organisers to choose other less disruptive and peaceful ways to air their views.”

A spokesman from Cuadrilla Resources said: “Cuadrilla has consistently made clear that it supports the right to peaceful protest.

“We are naturally concerned that the safety of our workers, Lancashire residents and peaceful protestors is not affected by this promised ‘direct action’.”