Lancashire business owners question fracking support claims

Protest: Friends of the Earth and businesses against fracking outside the public inquiry on fracking at Bloomfield Road

Protest: Friends of the Earth and businesses against fracking outside the public inquiry on fracking at Bloomfield Road

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A group from the Friends of the Earth along with business owners demonstrated on the seventh day of the five week public inquiry into fracking in Lancashire.

They were at the inquiry, at Blackpool FC, in response to a survey released earlier in the week by the NW Energy Task Force which claimed a majority of businesses in the area supported the development of a shale gas industry.

I refute the evidence from Ms Murphy regarding the survey. The numbers do not stack up and the methodology was not sound.

Maureen Mills

Inside the appeal room Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Chamber of Commerce, was due to give evidence in support of Cuadrilla’s appeal against Lancashire County Council’s refusal of planning permission to test frack for gas at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road.

Part of Ms Murphy’s evidence centred on a survey of chamber members which she said showed an overwhelming support for their stance in support of shale gas in Lancashire.

Outside business owners said they and many more opposed fracking.

Craig Hughes, a farmer from Crossmoor – half a mile from the proposed Roseacre fracking site – said fracking would damage his business and his name had been used on a letter of support for fracking by the Chamber of Commerce without his knowledge. He said: “In no way do I support fracking. I have since resigned from the Chamber as a result.”

Maureen Mills, of Halsall near Ormskirk, was also a Chamber member. She said: “I refute the evidence from Ms Murphy regarding the survey. The numbers do not stack up and the methodology was not sound.”

But inside the hearing Babs Murphy asserted that the vast majority of Chamber members supported a shale gas industry.

She said that as well as the survey, the Chamber’s membership council, which determines over-arching policy, convened to take evidence and discuss the issue before taking a stance in 2013.

She said: “We have been transparent and passed comment in the press and pub articles on our website. The vast majority are supportive of the Chamber’s position, however, like in any democracy you will never get 100 per cent support.”

In her evidence she said the Chamber believed that a developed shale gas industry in Lancashire would create thousands of jobs and boost the economy.

Estelle Dehon, counsel for Friends of the Earth, said the major industries in the appeal area were agriculture and tourism which would be adversely affected by industrialisation on the Fylde. She said: “You do not consider negative impacts on agriculture in your evidence.

Ms Murphy replied: “No we don’t because we don’t believe they are necessarily substantiated.”