Freelance journalist and mother Ebony Ava Johnson, from Residents Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF) blogs about the launch of Frack Free Lancashire.
In February, we heard the news we had dreaded. Cuadrilla planned to return to the Fylde to drill and hydraulically fracture eight wells at two new sites, in Little Plumpton and Roseacre. If these new sites are granted planning permission it will set a precedent for intensive, widespread industrialisation of the Lancashire countryside.
It had become apparent to us that there is significant opposition to shale gas but few people know how to object.
In response to this I came up with the idea for the Frack Free Lancashire campaign, to give the wider public the opportunity to object to the two new planning applications.
Throughout the summer campaign groups will have stalls in town centres all over the county, hold meetings and events to engage with the public and allow them to have their say. On 21st June 2014, 18 anti-fracking groups from all over Lancashire, united in Blackpool to show solidarity against fracking.
The sun shone brightly as I arrived in a quiet and peaceful Blackpool town centre. Boxes of information brochures, objections letters, banners, posters and biscuits towered atop two large tables. As I taped a huge bright yellow Frack Free Lancashire logo to the table people started asking how to get involved. As other groups arrived, the stall started to take shape and before long the square was a sea of yellow Frack Free Lancashire T-shirts. For the next eight hours, streams of people flocked to sign objection letters, ask questions, and collect information leaving me amazed at the campaign groups’ passion and determination in the fight against dirty fracking.
With such a high level of interest I find it astonishing that local councils, our elected representatives, have not undertaken similar events in order to gauge public feeling towards shale gas. Nor will Cuadrilla face the general public, instead choosing to hold their public meetings in remote locations that are not on public transport routesand often only inviting a select audience. In the beginning Cuadrilla sent their information brochures to tens of thousands of homes in the Fylde, now they only engage with the residents in the immediate vicinity of their proposed new sites. They purport to be a ’good neighbour’ so what have they got to hide?
Everyone at the launch was overwhelmed by the unbelievable support we received. T there was a real sense of community spirit as people of all ages from all walks of life from all over the region stopped by the stall. As the box filled up with over 1000 objection letters I felt incredibly emotional. Many people had come to Blackpool especially to see us, which for some people was a huge effort. One disabled couple found it difficult to get around but felt so strongly against fracking that they came to sign an objection as they had no internet access. I distinctly remember so many people I spoke to, especially an elderly lady who took my hand in hers and thanked us for what we were doing and said she only wished she could help us more.
The movement against shale gas has come along way and public awareness is growing every day as is the evidence of fracking’s negative impacts. People need to know that they can do something to say no to fracking in their community. All over the UK people are uniting to make their voices heard. The UK must look at the devastating evidence that fracking has left behind all over the world and act to protect its people, the environment and precious resources such as water and air. Renewable energy is our future, a long term solution that will provide us with energy independence.
I am not an ‘activist’, ‘tree hugger’, ‘hippy’, ‘green’, ‘NIMBY’ or any other label that is put on someone who opposes shale gas. I am a self-employed university graduate and first and foremost I am a mother. I have researched the dangers of shale gas development for myself and now, along with many others am working to share this information with our communities. Every person that we help to educate or give the opportunity to object makes every moment of what we do worthwhile and we will all keep fighting to ensure that our beautiful Lancashire remains frackfree.