Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

How we beat the frackers in Lancashire

Pam Foster from Residents Action on Fylde Fracking tells the story of a weekend of furious campaigning

July 3, 2015
5 min read

The eyes of the world were on Lancashire County Council on Monday 29 June – and Little Plumpton, a quiet rural spot in the Fylde, situated in West Lancashire. The previous week had seen a previous planning application to frack the Fylde village of Roseacre thrown out by Lancashire’s councillors and another, for seismic arrays at the same site, rather bizarrely given the stamp of approval.

The planning officer had recommended that the application to frack at Little Plumpton (Preston New Road) be given the go-ahead as there were no valid reasons for turning it down. If they turned it down and fracking firm Cuadrilla appealed, the officer said there could be steep financial penalties for the council. A vote to refuse Cuadrilla’s application to frack Preston New Road was taken, resulting in seven in favour, seven against and one abstention. It was decided to adjourn until the following Monday as councillors asked for that advice to be provided in writing. We had been so close to getting this application refused – now the agony was to be prolonged until the following week.

So we had one weekend. What could we do? The Frack Free Lancashire machine, which represents almost 40 local groups, went into overdrive. Both the Preston New Road Action Group and Friends of the Earth each obtained independent legal advice that confirmed the view that the committee would have valid reasons for refusal on grounds of noise and landscape, and that the risk would be small if it went to appeal. How were we to get this information to the councillors though? The planning officer had made it very clear that there would be no further opportunity for public participation, or for members of the public to circulate written evidence collected over the weekend to any of the councillors.

The value of having many small grass roots groups under the Frack Free Lancashire umbrella is that we are able to act nimbly and quickly. It didn’t matter that it was the weekend – this precious legal advice was hand-delivered to all the relevant councillors, along with greetings cards and good wishes expressing our empathy for them. We have always appreciated the pressures they were under – meddling from central government, conflicting advice, tons of documents, and now the threat of financial penalties. We also needed to tell them that we’d decided that in the event of an appeal, we would crowdfund in order to raise the necessary cash to pay for any costs incurred.

Crunch time

Monday dawned and we found ourselves back in the council chamber, enviously leaving some of our colleagues outside in the sunshine, where a large crowd of supporters was gathering – much larger than we had dared hoped for. After all, many people had taken time off work, re-jigged schedules or had travelled from outside Lancashire in order to offer support the previous week.

We were nervous – this was crunch time. Most of us admitted that we hadn’t slept well over the weekend. The national and local press had gone into overdrive and nearly all, without exception, were predicting that permission was bound to be granted and that Lancashire was about to become the test ground for fracking in the UK.

A tetchy atmosphere pervaded the council chamber, with the chair and councillors sniping at each other. It was agreed that there would be a ten minute adjournment to look at our new legal advice received over the weekend. It seemed that the councillors were to see it after all. It was being taken seriously.

It was a tense time. Would the council take on board this latest legal advice and make a decision based on the best interests of the community and the people they represented, or would they kowtow to the wishes of a planning pfficer who was under pressure from George Osborne to make planning an easy passage for Cuadrilla? We dared to hope that this new information might be influential. The councillors came back in, there was more discussion – they took a vote 9-4, with one abstention. The chamber erupted with a noisy standing ovation. We had won! Minutes later the committee unanimously voted to also throw out plans for seismic arrays at Little Plumpton.

We emerged from the chamber into the sunshine and to the sounds of hundreds of happy people. Amid all the hugs and kisses was a general air of astonishment. We always believed that we could stop this but we had been faced with the very real possibility that the democratic process could be determined by councillors’ fear of legal fees.

Hats off to Lancashire councillors who had the courage to listen to their constituents. What a great victory for localism – and what a huge blow to a government that said it was ‘going all out for fracking’!

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright

Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones

‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression

Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death

‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum

The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes

Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference

Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki

Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going


139