Grandparents' fracking protest at Department for Business.

A group of five grandparents lock-on at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in London to call fro a halt to fracking.
A group of five grandparents lock-on at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in London to call fro a halt to fracking.

Five grandparents have locked themselves together inside the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to protest about fracking in Lancashire.

They are using arm tubes to make it difficult for police to remove them and are asking to speak to Minister Greg Clark, to ask him to deny permission for fracking to go ahead at Preston New Road in Lancashire.

The move has been organised by Reclaim the Power, a national pressure group opposed to fracking and industries which cause climate change. It warned last week that it was planning weeks of protests starting this month.

The five said their action is in support of those campaigning against fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, where the local council refused permission for the process in 2015, only to be overturned by Whitehall the following year.

After more than a year of protest since work on the the site was begun, Cuadrilla has now asked permission to begin fracking and are expected to start extracting gas this summer.

The firm won a temporary injunction to prevent lock-ons of this type and other protests at the drill site near Little Plumpton and at suppliers businesses ahead of the planned campaign by Reclaim the Power.

The group, Grandparents for a Safe Earth, are Bristol-based and said they were concerned about the effects of impending climate change on future generations.

One of those locked-on, Fi Radford, aged 70, said: “It's madness to start a completely new fossil fuel industry at this critical moment in time.

"All this money should be invested in renewable energy, which is clean and safe. We need to leave the fossil fuels in the group and and keep our beautiful countryside free from the blight of fracking rigs with their 24/7 lights, noise and pollution and the incessant heavy vehicles that service them. Given the choice no-one would choose a fracking rig over a wind turbine.”

Phil Kingston, aged 82 said: “These policies indicate a frightening absence of concern by this Government for the looming catastrophe facing upcoming generations. We are afraid for their well being."

The group added that they regretted having to take peaceful direct action but feel they have been left no alternative as democratic avenues of consultation are being speedily closed.

Chris Saltmarsh, member of Reclaim the Power Oxford said: “We oppose fracking here in Lancashire and across the world. That’s why we say ‘not here, not anywhere’ loudly and clearly when fossil fuel is imposed our communities. We need to keep all fossil fuels in the ground to avoid the worst impacts of climate change."

A spokesman for UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG), said: “Today’s protest just shows how out of touch anti-gas activists have become. 84% of homes across the country, including Lancashire, Bristol and Oxford, are heated using gas, and around 50% of our electricity is produced from gas, a figure that reaches even higher after a prolonged windless period in the UK, as we’ve seen this month.

"However, currently over half of our gas comes from outside the UK and that proportion is set to grow, a trend that has both negative environmental and economic consequences. By producing gas here in the UK, from resources just a mile under our feet, we can boost not only our energy security but jobs, local investment and tax revenue too.”

Cuadrilla issued a statement when the weeks of action was announced. A spokesman said: "Local people and businesses in Lancashire have made it abundantly clear that do not want these self-publicising activists from Oxford, London and elsewhere blockading and disrupting Lancashire roads and business.

We would remind any activists tempted to follow this call for direct action to bear in mind the very recent High Court Injunction awarded to Cuadrilla on 1 June 2018 by Judge Pelling.

"This injunction, which can be read in full on theCuadrilla website, prohibits obstruction of the Preston New Road Highway or the shale exploration site entrance and also prohibits direct action such as blockades, or lorry climbs against named suppliers to Cuadrilla. Breaching a High Court injunction carries very serious penalties for those found guilty and Cuadrilla will not hesitate to enforce its legal rights under this injunction”