|Cat Smith MP and Lancs County Councillor Gina Dowding speaking at Preston New RoadAdd caption|
Anti-fracking campaigners are holding a day of protest today at Maple Farm on Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton, where Cuadrilla have been setting up drilling pads since January. As well as the wind-swept 'Protectors', other local residents and local and regional campaign supporters, musicians, rappers and even a troupe of Morris Dancers have converged on the site.
A peaceful 'rolling' protest has been running alongside the site at Maple Farm on the A583 attempting to slow down the work and block traffic from entering and leaving the site.
The rally is part of a national day of protest against fracking sites across the country.
Lancashire County Council's decision to refuse planning permission for Cuadrilla to frack the site was overturned by the Secretary of State last Ocober. The Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG) said that his decision was "fundamentally flawed" and a "top-down abuse of power". The group have crowdfunded a legal challenge to the decision, which will be heard at Manchester's Civil Justice Centre on 15 March in Manchester.
About 7 carloads of people went from Lancaster to the anti-fracking rally, with Labour, NUT and Unite banners. Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Cat Smith spoke out against Cuadrilla's fracking plans and the need for unity against government policies that disadvantage the region and render it vulnerable to such exploitation. Standing alongside Lancashire County Council and the local parish councils, Cat Smith has been strongly and consistently opposed to Cuadrilla's fracking plans.
Also addressing the rally, County Councillor Gina Dowding (Green Party) explained the grounds on which the council had overwhelmingly refused permission and the obstacles that had been set in their way by central government in the process. She repeated her message to the Secretary of State that "When Lancashire says 'NO' it means 'NO'".
Anti-fracking campaigners and groups have been supporting the protest, culminating yesterday in a visit from the East Lancashire Clarion Choir, who sang their hearts out at the gates, and demonstrated the very broad opposition felt by decent people across Lancashire against this extreme energy extraction plan.
Since the SoS granted Cuadrilla permission to frack, regulation on groundwater testing has been changed and protesters complain that Cuadrilla has not met the new requirements, as they failed to carry out the required year of preliminary testing before commencing work. Protesters point out that they are supposed to be reassured by environmental regulatory controls, but these controls are repeatedly set aside for fracking companies. They are concerned that the government has consistently set the interests of fracking companies above the law, leaving local residents without real protection or safeguards.