Anti-frackers plan mass site protest

Environmental battle: Protestors at Cuadrilla's Balcombe oil exploration site last summer
Environmental battle: Protestors at Cuadrilla's Balcombe oil exploration site last summer
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Blackpool and the Fylde could see huge anti-fracking protests next month with as many as 1,000 protestors camping out, a national campaign group has said.

Members of No Dash For Gas, an organisation of activists and campaigners, are to stage a Reclaim the Power action camp near Blackpool.

They say it will be similar to the one which stopped Cuadrilla drilling for six days in Balcombe last year.

But businesses in Blackpool have blasted the idea fearing it will damage tourism and cost a fortune in policing.

The camp at an as yet undisclosed location but likely to be near Cuadrilla’s exploration sites at either Preston New Road or Roaseacre Wood, will take place from August 14 to August 20 and the group said around 1,000 people are expected to attend.

It will include a demonstration in the local area on Sunday 17 and a day of direct action on Monday 18 as well as a series of workshops on direct action hosted by the coalition of climate and social justice groups and unions.

It aims to support the local community where 18 anti-fracking groups are opposing shale gas extraction.

Sam Leyton. from Reclaim the Power, said: “We’re excited to support the local community at risk of fracking.

“Cuadrilla and the fracking industry think that they can bulldoze local community rights but it is clear that they have no social license to operate. This is the front line against extreme energy – it started here, let’s end it here.”

A spokesman from Residents Action on Fylde Fracking said: “For three years we have grown our movement, shared the facts about fracking at public meetings, opposed planning applications, lobbied our MPs and done everything to ensure our voices are heard.

“They still aren’t listening though. We need all the help we can get. That Reclaim the Power are coming to stand by us as they did the residents of Balcombe is fantastic news and we look forward to offering a Lancashire welcome.”

But members of the North West Energy task Force have warned protest camps at Barton Moss have cost the taxpayer – through policing costs – on some official estimates up to £40,000 per day and the taxpayer bill for the 2013 Reclaim the Power direct action camp in Balcombe was £4m.

Babs Murphy, the Chief Executive of the North and Western Chamber of Commerce, urged organisers to cancel the camp. She said: “This protest camp will be bad for business.

“Seasoned political activists from London and the South East risk putting families off from their annual summer holidays.”

Claire Smith, President of Stay Blackpool, said: “Of course freedom of speech should always be protected, but August is peak season for Blackpool and a key time in our business calendar.

“Why can’t the organisers protest through the normal democratic channels, rather than disrupt our tourism trade during a critical period?”

A Cuadrilla spokesperson said: “Cuadrilla has consistently made clear that it supports the right to peaceful protest. We are naturally concerned that the safety of our workers, Lancashire residents and peaceful protestors is not affected by this promised ‘direct action’.”