A group opposed to Cuadrilla’s plans to frack in the Fylde area of Lancashire has reacted angrily to news that the government is offering local people money to take part in surveys about shale gas.
The Preston New Road Action Group, which is campaigning against one of Cuadrilla’s proposed sites, described the timing as insensitive because it coincided with the middle of the public inquiry on fracking in the area.
The group said parents taking children to school yesterday were approached by researchers, who said they were working for the Department of Energy and Climate Change. According to the group, the researchers were recruiting people to take part in a study on future energy sources.
One parent who was approached said she was opposed to fracking. The research is said to have replied that she was not eligible to take part in the study.
According to Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG), the researchers also went door-to-door asking for participants. A notice offering participants £180 to take part in the research has been displayed in the post office in Wesham, a village between Preston New Road and the other Cuadrilla proposed fracking site at Roseacre Wood.
Claire Stephenson, of PNRAG, said:
“It’s incredibly shocking that DECC would choose this insensitive time period to begin canvassing for opinions on fracking that don’t include actually being against this form of fossil fuel extraction”.
“We are mid-way through a sizeable and stressful Public Inquiry for Cuadrilla’s appeals, where local communities are fighting to retain their ways of life before Westminster make the final decision”.
“It seems very inflammatory to attempt to garner what seems to be underhand support for the industry by excluding people who already have formulated views against fracking, whilst using what we presume is public money to compensate study participants.”
DrillOrDrop put the complaints to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. A spokesperson said:
“The aim of the research, which will be published in full, is not to change opinions but to understand what influences an undecided person’s view on fracking. For this reason participants were sought who have not already formed a strong opinion, positive or negative.”
The spokesperson added:
“The research has been procured through competitive tender. This is standard practice for government research to ensure it is transparent and accountable.”
“Previous externally commissioned research suggested that focus group dynamics were undermined when participants had strongly held views, either in support or opposition to fracking.”
“Our latest tracking survey showed that 44% of the public neither support not oppose fracking.”
“The research is taking place where the development of shale exploration is at different stages of the planning process: Nottinghamshire, Lancashire and North Yorkshire, and also Peterborough where there is no shale prospectivity.”
“Participants in the research are being recruited via ‘free-find’ methods. In ‘free-finding’, recruiters randomly select people in central hubs of activity within a specified area, such as high streets and shopping centres.”
“Financial incentives are a standard part of social research. People participating in this research project will spend approximately 12 hours, spread over two Saturdays, in workshops. For many, this is a considerable time investment.”