Test fracking up north - MP

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Tory grandee Sir Nicholas Soames has been branded a ‘nimby’ for saying Lancashire – not his home county of Sussex – should be used as the test bed for fracking.

The outspoken MP, who will be defending his Mid-Sussex seat at next week’s general election, told a public meeting that rural areas in the north would be the perfect place to try out the controversial drilling process to see if it is safe.

“I would go and start in the Trough of Bowland in Lancashire, which is a very underpopulated area,” he said. “I would not do it in Sussex.”

Sir Nicholas’s comments were attacked as “insulting” by leading anti-fracking campaigner Eve McNamara of Frack Free Lancashire.

“It is insulting, very insulting, to suggest they should test it on us in the north first,” she said. “But I’m not surprised because that is the attitude of MPs down south.

“Sir Nicholas and some of the other southern MPs are showing true nimbyism.

“They don’t want it in their back yard, but it’s OK in ours.”

The Eton-educated grandson of Sir Winston Churchill has been a Conservative MP for 32 years in Sussex.

But he was even heckled by his own constituents when he told the public meeting in Haywards Heath that he was a supporter of fracking.

“I am in favour,” he said. “I think it would be very foolish to turn it over. I think Britain has a very well-established, extremely effective framework for onshore drilling.

“But in Sussex I do say ‘no,’ because we can’t frack in very built-up areas.

“It’s a silly thing to do, there isn’t the infrastructure for thousands of trucks thundering through the place in a heavily populated area.

“Where do I think it should be? I would go and start in the Trough of Bowland in Lancashire which is a very underpopulated area. I think it would be a very good place to start.”

Eve McNamara responded: “I’m not impressed by his comments at all. We have already had George Osborne’s father-in-law saying they should start fracking in the ‘desolate’ north.

“Now we have this. It is just another example of the widening north/south gap. Sir Nicholas is being a nimby.”