First the weather, now locals are causing grief for a fracking firm

Protest at a fracking site in Lancashire
Steve Topple

If a fracking company thought the weather had given it a headache, it probably wasn’t ready for the protests that temporarily stopped its work in its tracks.

A fracking disgrace

Preston New Road, near the village of Little Plumpton, is at the centre of a row over frackingCuadrilla has permission to explore and drill the site for shale gas, which has pitted it against local people. But its operations have been dogged by numerous scandals. These include:

  • Campaigners and local councillors accusing private security and police at the site of using “disproportionate force” and trying to “provoke violence” – something both groups deny.
  • Political interventions from shadow chancellor John McDonnell, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, and Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley.

In July, the government officially gave Cuadrilla the go-ahead to start extracting shale gas. The decision was met by more protests from locals. Then, a legal challenge from local resident Bob Dennett stopped Cuadrilla in its tracks. He argued that the local council’s “emergency response planning and procedures” at the site were not good enough.

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Cuadrilla was set to start work on Saturday 13 October. But in a twist of irony, Storm Callum stopped the firm in its tracks. So it tried to resume operations on Monday 15 October. This time, though, it wasn’t the weather getting in its way. Incensed local residents and campaigners effectively shut Cuadrilla down.

Shut down

Around 40 people gathered at 4:30am with a van to blockade Cuadrilla’s site. A scaffold structure was put on top. A banner read “Stop the Start. Don’t Frack the Climate”:

Blockade of Cuadrilla fracking site

The blockade continued into the morning:

The blockade of Cuadrillas site continued

The Lancashire Post kept up with events with rolling coverage. As it reported, at around 10:50am police closed the entire road to the fracking site. Dennett called it a “political” move. Then campaigners locked on by reportedly cementing their arms together with tyres. One campaigner told the Lancashire Post:

We’ll be monitoring the site 24 hours a day. It is definitely not over, it has just got serious.

Social media also got involved with the action:

Did the Cuadrilla chief executive have problems eating his breakfast?

Even BBC Breakfast reported on campaigners’ actions:

Climate wreckers?

But despite the protest, at around 1:15pm Cuadrilla began work at the site.

A spokesperson for local campaign group Preston New Road Action Group told The Canary:

We are deeply disappointed that despite many ongoing concerns and challenges, the decision to progress fracking at this time has been taken.

Over 100,000 people objected to this fracking application. In addition, our parish council, Fylde Borough Council and Lancashire County Council rejected the application. They had a duty of care to local residents and they fulfilled that duty.

The wishes and democratic decisions of our community have been ignored by the government in favour of an industry that does nothing to enhance our climate or environment.

There are now hundreds of scientific studies that have already identified risks and actual harms resulting from fracking. The UK government has blatantly ignored them all.

Poor Cuadrilla. First, the extreme weather stops it in its tracks, delivering a dollop of irony to boot. Now, a group of locals and campaigners brought the multinational to its knees; albeit it just for a short while. If anyone owns the world’s smallest violin, could they please send it to Lancashire?

Get Involved!

– Find out more about Frack Free Lancashire’s climate crisis event. Follow the group on Twitter.

Featured image and additional images via Reclaim the Power

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Steve Topple