Tim Farron MP could be pivotal in the coming campaign to stop fracking in Britain
Readers occasionally ask for an update on the fracking battles in Shropshire which were hot last summer and were causing great concern. The sole application to frack in the county happened to be just 300 metres from my business, and as I was informed as to what fracking/coalbed methane extraction entails, thanks to people sending to The Tap, we were quick to launch a campaign of opposition, starting with the local MP Owen Paterson, who at the time was the Secretary of State for the Environment. Within two months he was sacked by Cameron, possibly partly as a result of our campaign which was hard hitting and suggested Paterson should be gone. By weakening Owen, we were bringing Cameron into our sights. Sacking Paterson shot our fox.
Next came the Shropshire Council, which in May admitted that the Councillors hadn’t yet heard of fracking, and had little idea as to what it entailed for the county. Yet within months they were able to give 100% rejection of the planning application which threatened the village. Their knowledge had grown rapidly in the intervening period.
The camp on Brooklands Farm now one year old, featuring Cameron looking horrified by a dead herd of cows that drank fracking-polluted water
As a result of a post on this blog, a group of environmental protection activists travelled down from Chester and informed the farmer they were occupying the field under Section 6 of the Public Order Act. They were able to get opposition to the drill into the newspapers, and onto the radio nearly every week for months, and build opposition amongst the local community. They orchestrated a demonstration of over 100 people against the drill during a visit of the Council planning subcommittee, the day before the Committee voted. This apparently swung the few waverers over to voting against, when they had been unsure prior to seeing a country lane in a sleepy village blocked by concerned locals carrying banners and shouting their opposition outside the vehicle in which the Councillors were travelling.
Frackfreedudleston filled village halls, while Paterson preferred to stay away. Opposition from the community was near 100%, yet still the developer wouldn’t withdraw.
Equally the campaign run by Frackfreedudleston has been, and is still crucial. Every move by the developer to build approval has been strongly and professionally opposed, through the bureaucratic planning steps, and in the media. The developers have now agreed with FFD that the inquiry into the Council’s refusal to pass the plan can take place some time in 2016. No mention is made in the media that the farmer’s contract with the developer has already expired (July 12th 2015), and his contract makes it quite clear that the developer no longer has any right of access to the proposed drilling site. Given that circumstance it is hardly surprising that the developer is no longer exercised to push through the Inquiry. The farmer appears not be interested in signing another contract.
UPDATE – This was confirmed when the farmer Mr Paul Hickson was interviewed on Radio Shropshire today the 15th July 2015. This finally concluded the business over his farm, and he said categorically that he will not be renewing his contract with Dart Energy who now have no right of access to the site.
Chris Hesketh of Frackfreedudleston
THE NATIONAL PICTURE
The game is not over finally though until the situation in Parliament changes, as an element of compulsion could yet be introduced.
That said, the Liberal Democrats are selecting their leader on the 16th July and the betting/polling indicate that Tim Farron is the likely winner. He has already made public statements that he will be reviewing LD policies to make them more liberal. He has also voiced opposition to fracking. His winning of the Party leadership should before long make the Lib Dems the next party after the Greens to be in opposition to unconventional gas drilling in Britain. UKIP were a great disappointment in this regard and they missed a trick at the General Election by supporting the Conservative pro-fracking policy. Carswell is still making pro-fracking noises btw, as is Paterson, who has obviously not yet learned his lesson either.
My own video attacking Owen Paterson,our local MP and then Secretary Of State for the Environment
The Lib Dem policy, which could pull support from many constituencies if it actually happens, will trouble Labour, and Andy Burnham has already made anti-fracking/anti-drilling noises. If he wins the Labour leadership, it is possible, though by no means a certainty, that with Conservative rebels and the SNP, along with Lib Dem, a majority of MPs could be willing to vote against fracking within a few months, and bring in a UK ban, as has happened in many other countries.
As regards the Labour leadership contest, the front-runner is said to be Jeremy Corbyn by The New Statesman. If that forecast correct, he is totally in favour of a national fracking moratorium.
Jeremy is totally opposed to fracking because he believes that ”Fracking is dangerous to the environment and causes water pollution.”. In June 2012, he sponsored an Early Day Motion in parliament calling for a moratorium on fracking.
INEOS chairman Jim Ratcliffe has received private assurances from the SNP that it does not oppose fracking, he claimed yesterday.
The Switzerland-based billionaire said his business was given the nod earlier this year during private talks with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon — on the same day her party confirmed a moratorium on the damaging extraction process.
Mr Ratcliffe believes that an onshore shale gas industry could be operating commercially as early as 2018.
Ineos currently holds fracking exploration licences across 700 miles of Scotland, and will soon be seeking formal approval to begin drilling and carrying out seismic testing, which Mr Ratcliffe is confident will not breach the terms of the moratorium.
Frack Off Fife activist Tam Kirby told the Star that Mr Ratcliffe’s announcement “does not come as a major surprise.
“The SNP has always been very cagey when responding to queries regarding unconventional gas extraction.
“Now is the time for the SNP to come clean on the whole matter.
“If Ratcliffe is wrong, then the SNP needs to now change from having a moratorium on fracking to a complete and outright ban.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Dr Richard Dixon added: “Nicola Sturgeon urgently needs to publish a note of their meeting and make a statement on what she did and didn’t say to the Ineos boss.”
A Scottish government spokesperson said that these revelations were simply what had already been said publicly on the issue, namely that “no fracking can or will take place in Scotland while the moratorium we have announced remains in place, a policy that has received wide support from both environmental groups and industry.”
The SNP not voting against fracking would change the arithmetic substantially. You’d need over fifty Conservative/SNP rebels if these parties went against a moratorium. That’s where a Lib DEm revival could be powerful, if Tim Farron works the fracking issue to rebuild his party, as well as electoral reform, which he’s playing as his first pitch to the marketplace.
Keith Barrow, Leader of Shropshire Council, has led opposition to fracking at the Council and in the media, along with Councillor Steve Davenport
Meantime, with no certainty as to a national ban, Shropshire Council should be planning a move to a fracking ban across the county. They can only do this once there are no current applications to frack/drill in process. That could be another reason why the developer is happy for the Inquiry over Brooklands to be timed sometime next year. The ending of the Brooklands battle might allow the County a window to bring in a ban, and that is something the frackers want to avoid at any cost.
As regards our own very local battle to save our village and our jobs, farms and businesses, we are currently optimistic, but as the above explains, we are by no means complacent, and there is still much to do to finally remove this ugly threat to our environment and our futures.
Bulletin from FrackFree Dudleston this evening