Opposition mounts in Lancashire on eve of crucial fracking votes

Protesters with placards outside County Hall in Preston
Protesters with placards outside County Hall in Preston
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Opposition to fracking was mounting on the eve of a crunch meeting to decide on two planning applications to drill in Lancashire.

More than 240 businesses, community groups and trade unions signed a letter on Tuesday morning calling on county councillors to reject the plans by shale gas exploration firm Cuadrilla which come up for consideration at 10am on Wednesday.

The letter, organised by Frack Free Lancashire, highlighted “evidence” of the harmful effects of fracking on the environment and health and also the “myths” that shale gas will reduce energy prices and create many jobs.

It also called for a positive vision for Lancashire providing opportunities for young people, job creation and tackling climate change through renewable energy and energy conservation.

The signatories included more than 30 businesses in Preston and the Preston and South Ribble Trades Union Council.

Ebony Johnson from Frack Free Lancashire said: “We are delighted that so many organisations across Lancashire are joining us to call for a frack-free future for the county.

“While Cuadrilla and their lobby groups such as the North West Energy Task Force claim to have support from the business community, it is clear that many businesses have grave concerns about the negative impacts fracking will have on our local economy.

“ We are calling on county councillors to do what’s right for Lancashire and say no to fracking.”

The letter arrived at County Hall as an on-line petition containing around 40,000 signatures - gathered in less than 24 hours - was published, calling on Lancashire County Council to refuse permission for the two planned fracking sites at Roseacre Wood and Little Plumpton between Preston and Blackpool.

The petition was started on Monday night by the citizen advocacy network Avaaz. Bert Wander, senior campaigner at Avaaz, said: “George Osborne wants to transform Lancashire into Texas, covering Britain’s green and pleasant land with gas wells across our hills and valleys.

“There is a long list of things that are wrong with this plan and people everywhere are calling on the council to listen to them, not the fossil fuel lobby, and reject this proposal.”

A bid to halt shale gas exploration was rejected by MPs in a House of Commons vote on Monday night.

An influential committee of MPs had called for a moratorium on “fracking” on the grounds that it could derail efforts to tackle climate change. But MPs rejected the bid by 308 votes to 52