Protesters take fight over fracking to Prom

Anti-fracking campaigners organised a protest march along the Promenade from South Pier to North Pier.
Anti-fracking campaigners organised a protest march along the Promenade from South Pier to North Pier.

Hundreds of protesters took the fight against fracking to the beach as they marched along Blackpool Promenade ahead of a ‘day of action’ today.

Local campaigners were joined by groups from across the country as members of the Reclaim the Power camp, set up in Fylde last week, organised a march from South Pier to North Pier.

The peaceful protest was a prelude to a series of coordinated demonstrations planned to take place today.

But while local businesses, concerned about the impact of the protests on trade, welcomed the fact yesterday’s march went ahead without any major incidents, they raised fears over what today would bring.

Ashley Grey, of No Dash For Gas, said: “It is going to be very carefully targeted at particular companies and institutions who have completely disregarded local democratic opinion towards fracking.

“There will be lots of different protests around the country, including the Fylde coast.

“Some will involve civil disobedience while some are going to be completely legal.”

Steve Pye, of the North West Energy Task Force, said he was afraid of a repeat of the disorder when protesters set up camp in Balcombe last year, which reportedly cost £4m to police. The former president of the Fylde coast Federation of Small Business branch added: “When they break the law to get their point across, that’s when they lose their argument.

“We are just totally against any sort of damage to small businesses. The protesters seem to be singling out any business they think supports fracking but what they don’t realise is businesses support jobs and the local economy.”

Yesterday’s march attracted far fewer than the 1,000 protesters that had been predicted to attend, with Lancashire Police saying it “was not a significant number”.

Protesters claimed around 750 people took part, however other reports suggested the figure could have been as low as 250.

Bob Dennett, of Residents Action on Fylde Fracking, said: “It went really smoothly and people are taking notice.

“There is a huge wind change – this is the beginning of the end for fracking in the UK.”

South Shore resident Julie Daniels joined the camp, off Preston New Road, and took part in the march. She said: “We got a really good turnout.

“There was no trouble whatsoever – we were just reminding them we have a voice.”

Members of the march, many of them travelling from outside Lancashire to take part on the day, said they were committed to keeping the 
protest peaceful.

Michaela Smith, of Nottingham, said she had previously joined protesters at Barton Moss and Daneshill.

“We have no other 
recourse,” she added. “We are desperate to be listened to.

“If this is what it takes then that is what we will do. But people are totally aware of the image we need to present.”

Protesters have set up camp on farmland off Preston New Road to oppose energy firm Cuadrilla’s plans to drill for shale gas nearby.

A Cuadrilla spokesman said: “Cuadrilla has consistently made clear that we support the right to peaceful protest, but taking the law into your own hands – through trespass or direct action – is anti-democratic and harmful to local farmers, business and other job creators during an important time in Blackpool’s farming and business calendar.”

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said the force will be keeping an eye on any protests today, adding: “There were no issues at all during the march. We always try and facilitate peaceful protest wherever possible and we were satisfied it was well organised.”