Concern over anti-fracking campaign as residents claim protest is ‘unfair’

Building protest Protesters outside the Chambers of Commerce offices in South Shore, Blackpool,  on Monday, as several were inside the building
Building protest Protesters outside the Chambers of Commerce offices in South Shore, Blackpool, on Monday, as several were inside the building
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Residents across the Fylde coast today said fracking protests which saw campaigners storm a Blackpool building and spark a three-hour stand-off with police “went too far”.

The Gazette took to the streets in across the Fylde to canvass the views of the ordinary public following a “day of action” by the campaigning Reclaim the Power camp which took place on Monday.

It saw around 15 campaigners occupy the Chamber of Commerce building on Amy Johnson Way, South Shore, while a separate group of protesters went into a branch of HSBC in Birley Street, in the town centre.

The camp, which was set up last Thursday on land near Westby, has been occupied by hundreds of protesters opposed to plans by energy firm Cuadrilla, which wants to drill for shale gas at sites in Little Plumpton and Roseacre.

Police today said investigations into the Monday protests were ongoing, but officers are yet to make any arrests.

And while people’s views on whether or not shale gas drilling on the Fylde coast would be a good thing remain mixed, most agreed that protesters’ actions on Monday went too far.

Kenneth Thomas, 77, from Wesham, is one who believes the protests were too far.

He said: “I don’t agree with with the way in which protestors have gone about their business. Its not fair to cause trouble in that fashion.

“However, I do live in a mobile home sit close the Cuadrilla site and when the drilling started, my home did start to shake. I did think that can’t be right.”

Lilian Morris, 68, also from Wesham, agreed the Monday protests have “overstepped the mark.”

She said:”Well I do think we need to explore different avenues before we’re certain on fracking as the proper research has yet to be done in my opinion.

“Although, there is a right way to go about it and unfortunately from what I have seen in the news, the protesters have overstepped the mark.”

Sheila Darlington, 65, from Kirkham, said: “I have really not seen that much of the demonstrations.

“I can’t imagine it’s been that successful if there is not much known in the town about it.”

Maurice Alridge, 71, from Lytham, said that while it was important that fracking is debated, he did not agree with the Monday protests.

He said: “I think they have the right idea in questioning the drilling but I fail to see them carrying it out in the correct manner.”

Robert Caston, 62, of St Annes, agreed.

He said: “Even if they feel obligated to act upon what they believe in, they are not going about it in the right way.

“I don’t agree with storming buildings, causing a 
nuisance or disrupting other people’s days.”

Butnot everyone agreed.

Some told The Gazette the protests have been worth the trouble and are necessary so that people stand up and listen to the anti-fracking 

Michael O’Leary, 56, of Andsell, said: “I agree wholeheartedly with them.

“Fracking is dangerous and bad for the environment.

“However, I don’t want to see them hijacked by anarchists and/or professional protesters.”

James Fielding, 47, of Kirkham, agreed. He said: “I do think there are several issues regarding the fracking process if this is what it takes for people to be made aware of the issues then so be it.”

Today spokesman for Reclaim the Power said no further demonstrations like those on Monday are planned.

And they plan to leave the land, which is owned by a farmer, as they found it.

The National Farmers’ Union has also criticised the protesters, saying they are trespassing on the land.

A spokesman said: “The land they are currently trespassing on is land used by the farmer for dairy cows to graze and for future winter feed that would be mown for hay or silage.

“While we don’t believe the protest is aimed at the farmer, it is his business which is being disrupted and he will be concerned that he will be left with the cost of cleaning up the land afterwards.”