Youth climate campaigners living in the area of the UK’s only fracking site secured a meeting with a senior county councillor this afternoon.
Last week, the campaigners promised to return to Lancashire County Council in Preston every day after school. They had staged a sit-in in the entrance on Friday when no one from the authority would speak to them during the global climate strike.
They said they wanted the authority to acknowledge the youth voice on climate change.
This afternoon the council’s Conservative deputy leader, Cllr Keith Iddon, agreed to talk to them outside county hall.
He apologised for not meeting them on Friday and said he had not been aware of their visit to County Hall.
In a video of today’s meeting seen by DrillOrDrop, the youngsters said there were many things the council could do on a regional stage, including the elimination of single-use plastics and “fast fashion”. They urged the council to work with young people on climate change and to be transparent in its communications. They also called for a public youth debate.
Cllr Iddon, who was standing in for council leader Geoff Driver, said:
“We are small cog in a big wheel on the world stage but I appreciate what you are saying. I take on board everything you say.
The meeting also discussed the use of security guards and police during Friday’s sit-in protest.
Police officers reportedly filmed the protest and talked about arrests for aggravated trespass. Their actions were described as “disproportionate” and “unwarranted”. Cllr Iddon said the authority had not called the police.
Council staff were diverted to a different entrance, away from the protest. But one person leaving county hall was recorded verbally abusing the campaigners.
A student at University of Central Lancashire said today that youngsters who had attended the protest on Friday had been dissuaded from coming to today’s meeting. He said:
“We should no discourage activism in any way”.
One 13-year-old campaigner said:
“I felt really let down when we learned that no adults would even come out to speak to us. Our concerns are real yet we’re not deemed worthy enough to have our voices heard. All across the world, children along with adults, marched peacefully together to see action on the climate emergency. Yet in Preston, the council called the police. This makes me so sad.”
County councillor Steve Holgate said after Friday’s stand-off:
“As a Lancashire County councillor for Chorley, I want to make it clear that those who refused to speak with climate change protesters yesterday at County Hall did not do so in my name.
“Any climate change protester, child or adult who wishes to speak with me to express their concerns about the challenges facing humanity and all other species on this earth are most welcome to do so either at County Hall or elsewhere.”