“Overwhelming opposition” to fracking, shale gas commissioner told on visit to Fylde

pnr 181115 Eddie Thornton

Crane leaving Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 15 November 2018. Photo: Eddie Thornton

Communities in Lancashire will never accept fracking, the government-appointed shale gas commissioner, Natascha Engel, was told during a visit to Lancashire yesterday.

People living near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site said residents were being treated as “guinea pigs in a sacrifice zone”. Any potential benefits would be “far outweighed” by risks to their health and environment and to climate change, they said.

Earlier this week, Ms Engel, a former Labour MP and Ineos consultant, met members of the Ryedale Against Anti-social Protests group, formed to oppose anti-fracking campaigns in North Yorkshir. She has also written to journalists criticising what she called the “highly emotional” reporting of 36 recent earth tremors caused by fracking at Preston New Road.

Her meeting with people in Lancashire is thought to be her first with community representatives opposed to fracking since being appointed last month. It followed a series of unanswered invitations to meet Fylde residents sent to the energy minister, Claire Perry.

In a statement, people who attended yesterday’s meeting said:

“We stressed our opposition to plans to frack here on the Fylde and indeed, anywhere, as the risks, to our health, environment and climate change, far outweigh potential benefits. We told her our communities are being treated as guinea pigs in a sacrifice zone for this nascent industry. This is not acceptable and is detrimental to democratic process.

“We told her in no uncertain terms that communities in Lancashire will never accept shale gas developments in their midst with the potential risks to health, the environment and climate change.”

The meeting involved chairs of two residents’ groups, Preston New Road Action Group and Roseacre Awareness Group, two councillors, a local doctor and two residents.

Some anti-fracking campaigners had opposed the meeting. It had been described as “covert” and some people feared it would be used as propaganda by the government and shale gas industry.

The statement from yesterday’s meeting said participants welcomed the opportunity to express their views after “years of being ignored” by government.

“We did make it very clear that we are rational, well informed, well researched individuals and not a “shouty, traveling circus” as mythologised by [Claire Perry] the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth.

“Everyone in the meeting expressed their opinions passionately and she was left in no doubt about the strength and level of opposition. We felt that prior to the meeting she had underestimated the resolute opposition to fracking.”

Ms Engel agreed to take the comments from the meeting to Ms Perry and the Secretary of State, Greg Clark, the statement said. She also agreed to attend a public meeting.

Tremors, health and climate change

On the Preston New Road earth tremors, Barbara Richardson, who had invited Ms Engel, said:

“I made it clear that truly independent expert scientists in this field should be called in to analyse the earth tremors, not a government or industry-paid representatives with a very limited brief.

“We cannot be reassured until this has happened because we have been very unimpressed with the information provided so far.”

On climate change, Preston New Road Action Group said in a briefing to Ms Engel:

“It is a backward step to be starting up a new fossil fuel industry when we should be moving towards sources of renewable energy. There is no evidence that shale gas will replace other fossil fuels”.

The group said nine homes were within 350m of the Preston New Road site. There was evidence that fracking generated air pollution, it said, and medical studies had linked proximity to shale gas sites with a range of health problems.

The meeting reportedly discussed other issues, including:

  • Level and strength of opposition to shale gas developments across the country
  • Government proposals to change the planning system for shale gas
  • Buffer zones and separation distances between homes and shale gas sites
  • Cumulative impacts on communities of commercial-scale fracking
  • Costs of policing, road maintenance and loss of revenue from other industries
  • Lack of sustainable jobs in the shale gas industry

Ms Engel was shown the lorry routes for Cuadrilla’s proposed second local fracking site at Roseacre Wood. A decision from the local government secretary on this site is expected early in 2019. The commissioner was also given material supporting the case against fracking.


Susan Holliday, chair of the Preston New Road Action Group, said she was pleased to have the opportunity to discuss local concerns with Ms Engel:

”We understood from the outset of the meeting that she is not impartial, however she did listen to our concerns on seismicity, proximity, air quality, climate change and health.

“We trust that we have given her enough information and evidence to understand why we think fracking should not go ahead at Preston New Road or indeed anywhere else.”

Miranda Cox, a Kirkham Town Councillor and member of the Preston New Road community liaison group, said:

“we communicated our absolute opposition to fracking anywhere. We discussed a number of significant issues but the topics are so complex that the meeting today only scratched the surface. It remains to be seen if a follow up meeting will be arranged to explore further.”

Mrs Richardson, chair of Roseacre Awareness Group, said:

“It’s taken a lot of effort to get a meeting with somebody who will listen. We managed to convey a strong message, but I am yet to be convinced they will take our concerns seriously or change their stance on shale gas exploration.”

Parish and borough councillor, Heather Speak, who lives near the Roseacre Wood site, said she was:

“glad to have the opportunity to voice concerns about the devastating impacts this industry will have on all our communities”.

Invited to comment on the meeting with the residents near Preston New Road and with people opposed to anti-fracking campaigns, Ms Engel told DrillOrDrop:

“It was great to meet both groups in North Yorkshire and Lancashire and whilst they have very different points of view, neither group can be faulted for hospitality. There are legitimate concerns in each area and I will make sure that those are fed back to the Minister.

“It’s a pity that the arguments have become so polarised but I certainly got the sense from everyone I spoke to that they wanted to agree to differ and to have a rational debate about these issues.

“These were just the first meetings of many and I am looking forward to meeting with more residents, councillors and the community liaison groups over the next few weeks and months.”

Updated to correct name of group opposed to fracking protests which also met Natascha Engel

42 replies »

  1. By the way, awesome work to actually engineer the setting up of this meeting and retaining the right to avoid a a pre-scripted discussion. Very well done. Thank you.
    The visitor must have been surprised at the depth of anti-fracking knowledge now available to threatened Communities like the Fylde.
    I notice the phrase ‘Sacrifice Zone’ being applied to the Fyld., As a local resident I was frankly horrified and sceptical when I first became aware of this term some years ago. Now the accuracy of this description is beyond doubt and fracking must be resisted in every way possible to save our planet and each local Community threatened!

    [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

    • Tbh Wandering Dutchman, the more the people pushing Environmental Destruction are placed, dressed or not, in the shop window the better!

      Every time they write an instruction to Editors to redact anti-fracking content, every time they fabricate evidence to falsely charge environment protectors, every time their Constabulary thugs are shown in action abusing our elderly or vulnerable friends, the Public are challenged to find out the truth.

      That’s how a shop window is used to stop the frackers and their facilitators.

      Mind you Mother Earth at PNR is doing a great job currently!.

  2. The recent revelation that Natascha Engel has tried to muzzle the press’s reporting of fracking (see this Talk Fracking post – http://www.talkfracking.org/fracking-news/new-shale-gas-tsar-attempts-to-lobby-the-media-on-behalf-of-fracking-industry/ ) on behalf of the industry does not make people feel she is planning to listen to anyone who opposes the industry’s agenda. She has zero credibility and is simply there to be a buffer for Claire Perry, who realises she has bitten off more than she can chew with the recent Tory rebellion over Permitted development.

  3. Sorry Jack, argue it with your anti buddies and read Ruth’s text again.

    If this is an issue that has such overwhelming opposition, why did the electorate not demonstrate that? Are you suggesting it was overwhelming in numbers but pretty insignificant in respect of other issues? Maybe dog fouling swung the voters? Tories renowned for cleaning up a mess.
    Oh dear Jack. Off you go for re-education! Say hi to PhilipP whilst you are there. He suffered the same fate. Come back soon-we will miss your good humour.
    (We had overwhelming opposition to 300 new houses in our parish, but they are now being built and very few could be bothered to turn up for the meetings. Perhaps underwhelmed opposition might be more apt?)

    Equally, why do you take the lowest “blood money” figure every time? Are we not supposed to be bright enough to know that there is a scale and it is for each well? Eddie Stone shines through the fog again!

    But, snuggle up in that comfort blanket. Colder weather next week. Freezing fog?

    • We have known about UK shale gas for decades. The big energy companies have never touched it. Why, because it is the dearest, dirtiest, unreliable source of natural gas.

      Now we have a shale gas commissioner. Someone officially overseeing a pipe dream conjured up to play the investment market and with zero chance of actually supplying cheap clean energy to the UK public.

      This imaginary industry is an embarrassment.

    • Hi Martin,

      I think the Fylde electorate, always Tory, believed what the fracking propaganda machine churned out until recently.

      The recent swarm of earthquakes and the recent Dictatorial instruction to the Media to desist with telling the truth about the developing hazards presented by the fracking industry seems to have woken them up!
      Probably the realisation that destroying the Fylde Coast tourism and farming industries isn’t the brightest thing to do either has dawned on them too.

      Anyway nowts happened here for two weeks. I wonder what’s cooking?

      • ‘I wonder what’s cooking?’

        Whatever it is it’s not cooking on UK shale gas. You could however cook on the expensive propane which is needed to be added to shale gas to make it the correct calorific value for the gas network.

        I doubt the site will have access to our home grown North sea gas and piped Norwegian gas so while they are spending £94,000 a day in down time the security guards and workers can use the CV correcting propane to keep warm. Expensive, but hey ho if it’s not your own money you are spending why worry.


      READ MY LIPS , Nobody wants Fracking.

      You can try and dress it up however you want, but all you are doing is making us laugh……. Please understand, nobody wants Fracking.

      For the second time , Ordinary people , ORDINARY PEOPLE do not cast their votes on ONE issue only ………. Now Fracking, may be all life consuming for you . Maybe because you are a shale investor who’s down big time on your investment, but for us, the general public, we will cast our vote after taking in to account the full range of policies from the prospective candidates .

      Why would anyone with a brain in there head want to put their families at risk for a pitiful £150 ???

      Maybe I can help you understand why people don’t want Fracking

      Here is a warning from Breast Cancer Action , what do you say about this MARTIN ????? Are you concerned ????


      Many , MANY more available , if you need more convincing.

  4. One for Sherwulfe:


    Not sure what 5deg does for the number of IPCC days remaining?

    “China, Russia and Canada’s current climate policies would drive the world above a catastrophic 5C of warming by the end of the century, according to a study that ranks the climate goals of different countries.

    The US and Australia are only slightly behind with both pushing the global temperature rise dangerously over 4C above pre-industrial levels says the paper, while even the EU, which is usually seen as a climate leader, is on course to more than double the 1.5C that scientists say is a moderately safe level of heating.”

    Perhaps the antis in the UK should focus their efforts in China, Russia & Canada?

    • Perhaps we should get our own house in order before preaching to others. Leading by example is always a stronger position to take.

      • Unfortunately History shows “leading by example” does not work. And our house is not doing too bad with the increase in renewables to a currently sustainable level and the switch from coal to gas. How the recent EU ruling on the UK’s back up power subsidies will impact this will be interesting. The sensible approach will be to have an energy plan which does not require costly back up power i.e. more gas, particularly now that the replacement nuclear program is falling apart. And switch the whole of DRAX to gas and get rid of this ridiculous pretend greenwash forest burning program.

        • The planet is indeed cooking Paul. It’s cooking due to the burning of fossil fuel, turning stored CO2 into atmospheric CO2. Burning more fossil fuel makes it worse. Changing the type of fossil fuel burning merely swaps one catastrophic C02 source for another, only with a high likelihood of added methane to make the worse worse. But you knew all that really didn’t you.

        • ‘Perhaps the antis in the UK should focus their efforts in China, Russia & Canada?’ Seriously?? How much time and influence do you think anti frackers have (even assuming you don’t live in the fantasy world bubble where all anti’s are out of work, roaming Swampies). Perhaps all their limited time and energy is currently directed at opposing the ridiculous climate change worstening process called fracking. Dealing with other govts is a global govt issue, but in the meantime, every single human in the world needs to take personal responsibility for avoiding the rapidly approaching destruction of their own race (and a vast number of other species).

    • Yes Paul, thanks, had already read it; shocking isn’t it?

      But you cannot ask these countries to change their policies if we are not going the distance and trying to extract new fossil fuels such as shale, would be hypocritical. It brings to mind a conversation from a wild life protector in Africa to a British conservationist who asked why they were spending so much time in Africa when species in the UK were disappearing as fast?

      Stopping this industry here on climate grounds will be a big statement to the rest of the world….

  5. A very lame defence Peter!

    Firstly, the propaganda machine you refer to has been pretty much in first gear for a long time-which is to be expected until they have something concrete to report to the general public based upon actual results. A small whiff of gas should be an example of what will occur when commercial quantities are delivered. Industry tends to keep it’s powder dry until it can be really beneficial. The antis are the opposite, playing every card, and some from up the sleeves, and then finding they are left cleaned out.

    You need to escape your local bubble and try and see how this is playing out to the wider public. Many of them, if interested, will look at the BGS site to get an independent evaluation of tremors rather than DoD earthquakes, and having done so, move on to other things. Being able to measure things much more accurately doesn’t mean danger. The same confusion occurred over GM soya testing in cargoes and nearly did for Cargills in Liverpool. That was “utilised” by activists as well.

    • Martin you must haves missed the big Cs video where they lit their first whiff of glass? I am not sure about the industry keeping its powder dry as it seemed little more than a damp squib.

      Since then no further activity. How much a day is this fallow period costing again?

      I do agree about the interested wider public looking at the BGS for data though and when they do so they will see one name dominating the Earthquakes ( Note not Tremors) around the UK in the last 100 days charts

  6. Unlike yourself crembrule, I can access the UK and international media. I do not simply rely upon the internet. Did you check the coverage that weekend? Doesn’t seem so.

    In terms of tremors, they will then calculate which were significant and those that were more akin to a mole chasing an earth worm. And, of course, they can always double check with NE now, rather than anti organisations! And so can the media. Oh dear.

    Jack-very excited, so much so you contradict yourself.

    If the “blood money” was so pitiful-small, yes, but that is only for initial inconvenience (caused mainly by the antis-have you compensated the locals financially???)-then it would be far more easy for the recipients to refuse it than if there were some noughts added! But, they didn’t. They still took it. And then many voted for a candidate who belongs to a party supporting fracking in the election where others were available who were against it. Doesn’t look anywhere near overwhelming to me, but I suspect NE will have had other discussions in the area and will already know that. Even sitting within quotation marks on DoD may have been a clue.

    You know I am not an investor in UK fracking, and that I have a brain in my head, so stop trying to create a false perspective of your superiority, Jack. All you do is signal that you have difficulty with reality when you deviate from the point in that way. If you can not deal with the actual subject delving into fantasy is not the best option-it shows up immediately. I am sure there are investors in UK fracking who contribute to this site, but then there are obviously some who invest in alternative energy sources (like myself). So what?

    Good try, but re-education may still be required.

    • Walter I am Interested to know what this double secret international media source is that you have access to that isn’t available on the t’interweb. Is it the ticker tape machine, or perhaps carrier pigeon or maybe smoke signals.

      In terms of Earthquakes Johnny Public won’t be doing any calculations they will merely look at where these induced seismic events are occurring and will come to the conclusions that fracking =earthquakes. Hence the crying from industry supporters for BGS to not list these events on this particular format. Boohoo 😢

    • MARTIN ,

      Q1 You say people accepted the life changing £150 cash …… PROVE IT
      Q2 Have you not noticed the large number of Tory MP’s who are strongly against Fracking ??
      Q3 Just because someone voted Tory , are you trying to say they now support Fracking ??? People vote for thier local representative for a whole host of reasons …….. NO ONE MP will tick all the boxes for a voter. We vote for a candidate who we feel will best represent our needs and then try and change their polices which are at odds with what we feel is best .

      I’m not having difficulty with reality . This is reality MARTIN . For the second time, are you not concerned ???????



  7. I think Martin that the ridiculous request/demand from the newly appointed Shale Gas Commissioner in a desperate attempt to stifle public scrutiny and discussion illustrates clearly whose Public Relations is winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the British public.

    Utilising our education establishments in an attempt to minimise the effects of seismic events was another bad error. Condescending drivel about bags of flour dropped on a solid floor obviously bearing no relationship to actual movement deep below ground where the activities are happening.

    The only lame duck around here is the dying fracking industry.

    • It’ll certainly be interesting to see the next govt tracker figures on those opposing/supporting fracking (assuming they don’t conveniently stop asking the question again when likely to get the ‘wrong’ answer). The most recent figures were prior to the Cuadrilla PNR seismic debacle, since when there has been a lot of publicity that will have most likely prodded a significant number of the ‘don’t give a toss, it’s not in my back yard’ brigade into falling off the fence.

  8. Exactly how overwhelming is that opposition if the Council has just voted against a move to demand that fracking be stopped?

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