Anti-fracking campaigners threaten to set up protest camps

Activists consider ‘more confrontational’ action to prevent energy firms drilling for shale gas in Yorkshire and Lancashire

Anti-fracking campaigners are threatening to set up protest camps in Yorkshire and Lancashire to prevent energy companies drilling for shale gas. Fracking firm Third Energy was given permission on Monday to carry out test drilling at a site in Kirby Misperton in Rydale, North Yorkshire, even after 99% of locals voiced their opposition to the application.

The decision prompted fears around the country that other fracking sites would be given the green light. Those fears are particularly acute in Lancashire, seen as the “next frontier” in the fight against the extreme form of energy extraction. Ian Roberts, the chair of Residents Action on Fylde Fracking, which opposes fracking on the Fylde coast in Lancashire, said his group was ready to start “more confrontational” action.

“It’s one thing going to planning meetings, but when it comes to actually moving in equipment, there will be a different kind of action,” he said. “The way things are going, there will be Balcombe-style camps,” he added, referring to the protest camp in the Sussex village that hit the headlines in the summer of 2013.

The group was ready to join locals in Kirby Misperton to fight Third Energy, said Roberts. “We will go over there if they want us. I’ll have to dig out a tent,” he said. On 4 July, an independent inspector is to to report to the government on whether test drilling should be able to take place on two Fylde sites, on Preston New Road, and Roseacre Wood.

Last year, Lancashire county council ignored the advice of its own planning officers by rejecting an application from Cuadrilla. But after Cuadrilla appealed, a public inquiry took place in order for the inspector to make her recommendation to the secretary of state for local government and communities, Greg Clarke. He has the power to overrule the inspector’s recommendations.

Although the fracking application was approved in Kirby Misperton it could still be months before drilling begins. Third Energy will have to meet a number of different planning conditions before the fracking can start, and work may also be delayed if opponents of the plan apply for a judicial review.

If the fracking goes ahead, Third Energy has promised to make a “community benefit” payment of £100,000 to the community in Kirby Misperton.

Roberts warned the energy firms that they had picked on the wrong group of people. “They’ve chosen exactly the wrong people to do battle with: Lancashire and Yorkshire folk are no pushover. There’s a resilience, a tenacity. It’s perhaps no coincidence that a lot of us own terriers,” he said.

Last month, a senior executive from iGas, another fracking firm, predicted problems for the industry in the north-west. But he said he could see a way forward in the south and opportunities for discussion in the east Midlands.

Speaking at the Shale World conference in London, Gary Stringer, the company’s head of sustainability, said: “In the north-west, it’s going to be incredibly difficult. The groups over there are organised, very, very effective in terms of the language that they use to sensationalise absolutely everything.” In January this year, police and bailiffs cleared a protest camp at a potential site in Upton, Cheshire, which had been occupied for 21 months.

Over the years, the government has awarded more than 100 licences to firms in the UK, allowing them to pursue a range of oil and gas exploration activities in certain areas. But before firms can begin fracking, they must also receive planning permission from the relevant local council.

After Lancashire and Yorkshire, Nottingham is probably the next hot spot in the fight against fracking. Last year, the council validated an application by iGas to undertake exploration for shale gas on land off Springs Road, Mission, near Bassetlaw. The application, for the development of a shale gas well site that would involve the drilling of two exploratory shale gas wells, is going through the consultation process.

Dart Energy, a subsidiary of iGas, has also requested planning permission for shale gas exploration at a site on Tinker Lane, near Bassetlaw. This application is in the process of being validated by the council.

Contributors

Helen Pidd North of England editor and Nazia Parveen

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