Wednesday morning, at Lancashire County Council, the development control committee will say that they recommend approving fracking firm Cuadrilla’s application to drag out their obligation to restore the site, for another two years. Residents will of course – as they have in response to every alarm about this company – be there again calling for this to finally end!
Cuadrilla drag out their restoration promises
It was 2011 when Cuadrilla first rocked up to Blackpool and proclaimed the marvels of ‘natural gas’, the ‘abundance of jobs’ and the joy of just knowing how much our town would be contributing to ‘energy security’ in the UK. It didn’t take 12 years to discover that all those claims were just marketing lines – but it is taking this long because of those who fell for them.
The power, money and influence of this industry has provided access to government that those who will be affected can never hope for. Ministers like George Osborne when he was chancellor, championed shale gas with chants along the lines of ‘Fast-track fracking’, ‘All out for shale’ and more and whose father-in-law Lord Howell set the bar with his call to frack the “uninhabited desolate north”:
…and the Conservatives put their support behind it.
Overturning local democracy
Back in 2015, Lancashire County Council (LCC) heeded the facts and rejected Cuadrilla’s planning application for Preston New Road. Members of the council’s development control committee voted 10-4 to reject Cuadrilla’s application following more than 18,000 objections. Residents did some serious rejoicing; until 2016, when Westminster trashed any semblance of local democracy by overturning that decision.
Gina Dowding, Lancashire county and Lancaster city councillor and former MEP for the Northwest, has been a key voice in opposition to fracking, even taking part in local actions.
“We’ve been here before and it’s a travesty that residents are still having to face this ongoing threat to their community. This should have been done with when LCC rejected the plans in 2015. Like so many other councils LCC recognises the need for action on climate and this needs to be reflected in the planning system.”
For residents and campaigners who protested daily at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site for nearly three years, this is yet another slap in the face they could well do without. They have launched legal challenges, given evidence at inquiries, pursued objections and even used their bodies in non-violent direct action at the site. There is a strength of opposition here in Lancashire that has seen Cuadrilla face challenges every step of the way and today, tomorrow or any future day, will be no different.
Fighting for our own safety
Julie Daniels of Nanas Against Fracking said:
“It’s exhausting how much time, energy and input is required from us; that we have to defend ourselves and our community against this polluting industry is just ridiculous – that’s the job of government, council and regulators! Recently, Lancaster along with 235 other councils, passed the climate and ecology bill that would put into law, the sort of safeguards that communities like ours so desperately need.
“Then there’s the climate emergencies that so many – including the government – have declared; we need to see them ‘walk the talk’. It shouldn’t fall to people like us to endure this seemingly never-ending fight to stay safe.”
At 10.30am the appeal will be heard inside Lancashire County Council’s offices in Preston, Lancashire and at 9:30am residents will gather outside to ensure Councillors are aware that the demand is that this application to delay restoration – be rejected.
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