Several hundred anti-fracking protesters have taken over a field near a proposed exploration site for shale gas in the Fylde area, east of Blackpool.
The “No Dash for Gas – Reclaim The Power” camp has positioned itself close to one of two planned drill sites by energy firm Cuadrilla and is expected to remain for six days.

Inga Wilde, a campaigner at the camp said: “Blackpool is the first location for fracking in the UK, the first test site. So we’d like to stop fracking here and fracking everywhere else in the country.”

Last summer the same group occupied a site near Balcombe village in West Sussex, stopping Cuadrilla’s test drilling for oil.

There were dozens of arrests, largely for obstructing a highway to stop lorries reaching Cuadrilla’s site, and Sussex police mounted a huge operation at an estimated cost of £4m.

Wilde, who also occupied the Balcombe site, said: “We’re against fracking because of the local and potential environmental and health impacts. It threatens to pollute the water and air.

“New gas will not make energy more affordable. There are thousands of people in the UK dying from fuel poverty, but fracking will not solve that problem. It won’t bring the bills down. What we need is renewable, sustainable and democratic energy systems.”

A Cuadrilla spokesman said: “We believe there is absolutely no requirement and little local support for the protest and the illegal occupation of land being farmed by a local farmer, disrupting his business and family in the process. We understand the landowner is in the process of instructing lawyers to commence legal proceedings to recover possession of his land.

“Lancashire county council’s consultation process is ongoing concerning our two planning applications for shale gas exploration. This is a thorough, transparent and democratic process which gives people ample opportunity to make their views known to the decision makers in the council. There is no democratic mandate for this kind of illegal protest nor for the associated threatened ‘direct action’ against local businesses.”

A spokeswoman for Lancashire police said they were aware of the protest. “In line with their duty to facilitate peaceful protest, the police will seek to work with protesters and local residents with the aim of ensuring any event is safe and peaceful.”

Lancashire was the first and is currently the only county where hydraulic fracturing has taken place. The process involves pumping chemicals and water underground at high pressure to create tiny fractures in shale rock in order to release the gas trapped within.

Operations were halted in 2011 after two earthquakes, but the restrictions were lifted at the end of 2012, paving the way for the new planning applications that Cuadrilla submitted to Lancashire council in May this year. A decision is expected before December.

Nishad Karim, the Guardian

This article first appeared on the Guardian

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