16th April 2014
A residents’ group in Balcombe has called on the Confederation of British Industry to correct statements made on its website about Cuadrilla’s community engagement in the village.
The CBI posted an article on the media section of its website last week which used Cuadrilla as a case study on how to build trust with local communities. The article included the sentence: “Cuadrilla take considerable care in dealing with the local communities in areas in which they operate”.
But Frack Free Balcombe Residents’ Association, which opposes Cuadrilla’s oil exploration operation in the village, said the CBI’s case study was “incorrect and misleading”. In the past six months, FFBRA has described Cuadrilla’s community engagement as “lamentable” and contrary to government guidance.
Sue Taylor, the group’s vice chair, wrote to the CBI saying “I am objecting in the strongest terms to your misrepresentation of Cuadrilla’s community engagement at Balcombe.” She added: “I would be obliged if you would immediately correct the statements you have made”.
Mark Hadley, Corporate Communications Management at the CBI, said the case study was one of a number featured on the website to illustrate a new report Building Trust: making the public case for infrastructure. He said part of the case study was written by the CBI and part by Cuadrilla. When asked whether the author had spoken to communities with which Cuadrilla has worked, Mr Hadley said: “The case study explains that they have talked extensively to local residents – you would need to check with them if you need more specific details.”
In January this year, FFBRA sent evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee. This included the statement: “Cuadrilla’s engagement with our community has been lamentable – there was indeed no communication for the first 18 months until we invited them to a public meeting. When trying to raise issues with them we are directed to a public relations company, and it can take two weeks to receive what is usually an inadequate reply”
Last month, the group again criticised public engagement by Cuadrilla in its objection to the company’s latest planning application, due to be considered next week. FFBRA said Cuadrilla had “made little effort to engage.” It said the company had promised to consult the local community if it applied for planning permission for further activity. “There has been no discussion between Cuadrilla and the local community prior to the submission of the planning application”, FFBRA said. “This is contrary to guidance for onshore oil and gas issued by DCLG [Department for Communities and Local Government].”
InvestigatingBalcombeAndCuadrilla.com has asked Cuadrilla to comment on FFBRA’s comments and we will let you know the company’s response.