MP Cat Smith challenges ministers over tourism impact from fracking

Fleetwood and Lancaster MP Cat Smith speaking in Parliament

Fleetwood MP Cat Smith has challenged ministers from the Department of Communities and Local Government about the impact fracking might have on the tourism industry.

Following on from a question in Parlaiment about government support for coastal communities Ms Smith asked: “The Minister will be aware that tourism plays an important role in our coastal communities, so how damaging does he think the potential fracking wells on the Fylde coast would be to our tourism industry in the Blackpool area?”

Mark Francois MP, Minister of State for Communities and Local Government replied: “I should hope that fracking would not have an impact on tourism as such, although I understand the sensitivities involved in that issue.

“We are doing a lot to support tourism in the honourable lady’s constituency through the coastal communities fund.

“Wyre Borough Council was given a £1.55m grant in 2014 to create new attractions along Fleetwood seafront to attract more visitors throughout the year. Lancashire County Council got just under £250,000 in 2015 to unlock the heritage potential of Lancaster’s historic St George’s quay. I believe the fund is doing well around the country, particularly in the honorable lady’s constituency.”

Speaking afterwards Ms Smith said: “The minister failed to address the question I asked about the risk fracking poses to tourism on the Fylde Coast and across North Lancashire.

“While I welcome the investment we do get from the Coastal Communities Fund, it fails to address the issue that tourists will be put off by the sight of fracking wells ruining our beautiful countryside.

“Much has been made of claims that fracking might bring jobs; but Cuadrilla’s rejected applications to frack in Lancashire state that the total net employment was expected to be just 11 jobs at each of the two sites , and the only jobs for local people would have been in security and cleaning. Meanwhile the tens of thousands of jobs in tourism in our area would be in jeopardy.”

Her views were echoed by energy campaigner for Greenpeace, Hannah Martin.

She said:“During Cuadrilla’s application process, it was clear to the public and the Lancashire community that fracking would have a negative impact on the countryside, bringing noise, air and light pollution as well as impacting house prices and the tourism industry. ”

But Babs Murphy, from the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, disagreed.

She said: “There is no evidence – either from the UK or in America – that a thriving onshore natural gas sector would harm tourism.

“In fact, tourism, hospitality and entertainment services are likely to be big beneficiaries from a thriving onshore natural gas sector.

“Over the last few years, the Blackpool economy has suffered from the rise of cheap flights and increased competition.

“We should therefore welcome fresh investment into the local economy.”

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