This year’s Conservative conference, which starts in Birmingham on Sunday (30/9/18), is expected to see two events about fracking and a rally by opponents of shale gas.
A fringe meeting on Sunday (30 September 2018) debates the case for a Conservative rethink on fracking.
On Monday, dozens of women, dressed as Suffragettes, are expected to travel from across the country to highlight public opposition to fracking and the proposals. They will be gathering outside a fringe event on energy security at which the energy minister, Claire Perry, is expected to speak.
The North East Derbyshire MP, Lee Rowley, is the headline speaker at Sunday’s meeting. He has opposed shale gas exploration by Ineos in his constituency at Marsh Lane. At a recent parliamentary debate, he opposed government proposals to fast-track fracking by changing the planning system.
He will be joined by: Daniel Carey-Dawes, senior infrastructure campaigner at CPRE; community campaigner Frank Colenso from Ryedale; and Kenelm Storey, president of Thirsk and Malton Conservative Association and owner of the Settrington Estate in North Yorkshire.
The meeting publicity suggests that shale gas developments would have a limited impact on energy security but could lead to thousands of industrial fracking sites across Conservative marginal seats.
Steve Mason, of Frack Free United, a collective of residents, campaign networks and politicians opposing fracking, said:
“It’s time to take the fracking issue into the heart of government. The Lib Dems and Labour conferences have had a visit from us. It makes sense to take the discussion directly to the Conservative Party. Fracking affects all walks of life. Time to express that concern to all sides of the political spectrum.”
On Monday, women living near Cuadrilla’s shale gas site in Lancashire will be among those taking part in a rally outside the conference.
Their day-long protest will focus on the fringe meeting hosted by the onshore oil and gas industry body, UKOOG, titled: Energy security: is shale gas better for Britain?.
The event is chaired by John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance. As well as Ms Perry, advertised speakers at the event include: Mike Bradshaw, professor of global energy at Warwick University; Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKOOG; Natascha Engel, the former Labour MP for North East Derbyshire (Mr Rowley’s seat) and now director of Palace Yard Communications; and Stuart Fegan, national officer for the gas and water sectors at the GMB Union.
Ruth Owens, a mother from Thornton in Lancashire who will be travelling to Birmingham, said:
“Fracking is being forced on our communities against the wishes of local people and democratically-elected Councillors. We are at the Conservative conference to say enough is enough.
“If the Government’s proposals to fast-track fracking go through then the Conservative party will be remembered for opening the door to industrialisation of our precious countryside, undermining local democracy and silencing people on decisions which affect them.”
The former Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, will also be attending the rally. She said:
“Conservative MPs and Councillors up and down the country are rejecting the Government’s plans to make gaining permission for shale gas drilling as easy as for building a shed, and to take fracking decisions away from local authorities.
“If these dangerous proposals go ahead it will seriously undermine local decision-making and silence the voices of communities. The Government must listen to colleagues in their own party and to the general public and scrap these deeply unpopular plans.”