Research

Fracking firms not trusted by local communities, study reveals

Most people living near two proposed shale gas sites did not trust information from fracking companies, research has shown.

But surveys in south Yorkshire and Lancashire found residents were more likely to trust information from local opposition groups.

The study, by Exeter University, found that more than half the people questioned did not trust information provided by Ineos Shale about its plans in Woodsetts or Aurora Energy Resources for proposals at Great Altcar, near Formby.

Less than 1% trusted company information a great deal. And less than 10% trusted it a fair amount (5.3% for Woodsetts and 6.9% for Altcar).

In contrast, more than 60% trusted information to some degree from Frack Free Formby and Woodsetts Against Fracking.

About 20% in both communities trusted this information a great deal. Information was trusted a fair amount by 25.8% for Frack Free Formby and 17.3% for Woodsetts Against Fracking.

Information from the local group was not trusted at all by 13.3% in Woodsetts and 12% in Altcar.

“Box-ticking”

The study found that almost two-thirds of people living near the Altcar site thought public engagement by Aurora Energy Resources was, to some degree, a “box ticking” exercise to get planning approval.

Just over 44% felt the same way about Ineos Shale’s public engagement for Woodsetts.

The researchers said both companies concentrated on awareness raising and there were limited opportunities for community feedback. A community liaison group failed in Woodsetts and was not formed in Altcar.

Aurora Energy Resources described as “extensive” its community consultation on drilling and fracking plans.

But the researchers said the company defined the “impacted community” narrowly, as just people living within 1.5km of the site. This excluded people in Formby who were concerned about horizontal drilling underneath their town, the researchers said.

At Woodsetts, where Ineos planned to explore for shale gas, the first residents heard about it was a notice about a High Court injunction preventing public protest on the proposed site.

DrillOrDrop invited both companies to respond to the findings. Ineos Shale said it had no comment to make. Aurora Energy Resources did not respond.

Opposition

The study showed that most people living near proposed shale gas sites opposed the plans.

In Woodsetts, 68.6% opposed the Ineos plans to some degree. More than 48% strongly opposed. Just over 20% supported the proposal to some degree, but only 2.7% supported strongly.

At Altcar, 72.3% opposed the scheme, with 58.5% strongly opposed. Just under 20% supported it to some degree, with 2.3% supporting strongly.

In both areas, more than half people surveyed said they felt very anxious, or had a fair amount of anxiety, about the proposals (55.3% at Woodsetts and 58.4% at Altcar).

More than 80% thought the Altcar scheme would be very, or somewhat, likely to cause both seismic activity and increased traffic.

In Woodsetts, more than 82% thought increased traffic was very or somewhat likely and 72% expected the proposal would cause seismic activity .

When asked about positive responses to the shale gas proposals, just over three-quarters of people in both areas said they did not feel proud at all. Just 1% said they felt very proud.

About half the people questioned thought a £100,000 community benefit package for each site was not at all, or not very likely. About 45% thought it was unlikely that the proposals would create or protect jobs.

Less than 10% thought either scheme would be very likely to benefit employment.

Neither proposal got the go-ahead.

The Ineos Shale scheme at Woodsetts was refused planning permission in June 2022, following a public inquiry in 2019.

Aurora Energy Resources withdrew its application for Altcar in July 2020, before it was considered by Lancashire County Council.

*The surveys were carried out in spring 2020 in Altcar and summer 2021 in Woodsetts with a representative sample of 217 residents around Altcar and 226 around Woodsetts. The study were part of a research programme on unconventional hydrocarbons in the UK funded by two government funding councils. Charts in this post are based on data from the study.

2 replies »

  1. Thank you, Ruth, for reporting in detail the results of the research by Exeter University. Amazingly the public has little idea of the manipulation which companies and the Government performs – or attempts to perform – with the public. This research makes it clear, with numerical results.
    Thank you again.

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