In this guest post, Lancashire resident Barbara Richardson explains her frustration that the energy minister won’t meet local people to listen to their concerns about fracking.
I spent this weekend making my fourth attempt to invite the energy minister, Claire Perry, to meet a small group of people who live in my village of Roseacre.
We’d like to explain what we think are genuine concerns about the effects that fracking could have on our homes, some of which are only 300m metres away from Cuadrilla’s proposed shale gas site at Roseacre Wood.
Ms Perry has said she intends to talk to communities about their concerns about shale gas.
So I’ve been trying to arrange a meeting with someone, anyone, from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
But so far, I’ve not had a single acknowledgement of my correspondence nor any response to my invitations.
Roseacre is one of only three communities in England where fracking is either happening or formally planned. Yet we have not had a single approach from Ms Perry, or her predecessors, or other ministers in the department, or their officials.
We have lived with the prospect of fracking near our homes for nearly five years. Fracking is already happening at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site about five miles from our village. We could have a fracking site much closer if Cuadrilla is granted planning permission for its Roseacre Wood site.
Having watched closely what has happened at Preston New Road, we now know what a fracking site looks like. It is a large industrial facility that is totally out of keeping with our rural landscape.
We also know there would be over 15,000 movements of heavy goods vehicles routed along our narrow and winding country lanes. Some of these vehicles would be the very largest six-axle, 44-tonne HGVs. Sometimes they are likely to be travelling in convoys overnight.
Based on the recent Preston New Road experience, we know that there are likely to be multiple earth tremors.
“We’re not the minister’s shouty travelling circus”
Members of Roseacre Awareness Group, which I chair, think these are legitimate concerns and we want Ms Perry to understand better why communities like ours are so anxious.
We are not the “shouty travelling circus of protesters” described by the minister during a parliamentary debate. Nor are we nimbies, scaremongers or ill-informed.
We are well-educated, rational members of the public who have researched shale gas exploration in our own time.
I have represented people living near Roseacre for four-and-half years. I have presented evidence at two public inquiries on behalf of residents’ groups and seven town and parish councils. This cost our community thousands of hours of work and tens of thousands of pounds in fees.
I have also presented the evidence-based case of Roseacre Awareness Group to two parliamentary groups and attended the Paris Climate Change talks.
I feel that our community’s voice deserves to be heard. But so far, no one in government has been willing to listen.
Last month, the government’s newly appointed shale gas minister, Natascha Engel, visited North Yorkshire, where no fracking is taking place.
If the minister won’t talk to us, we feel the very least we deserve is the courtesy of a meeting with the shale gas commissioner.
I wrote to her but, like the minister, she did not acknowledge my correspondence or respond to my invitation.
I have offered to meet the minister or Ms Engel anywhere and at any time to suit their convenience.
People in Roseacre know that the minister made time for a round-table meeting with the shale gas industry in the spring.
We hope Ms Perry and Ms Engel will treat our latest invitations with respect and take time to meet us too.