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Greenpeace Launch The Wrongmove Campaign



Yesterday in Preston, saw the launch of the “Wrongmove” campaign. This campaign highlights the legal problem that Cuadrilla have if they want to drill under YOUR home, and gives you the chance to show your opposition to fracking in the Fylde.

This is how it works: if you don’t want Cuadrilla to be allowed to pump toxic fluids under your home, you can say so. Then, any drilling there becomes trespassing and Cuadrilla would be breaking the law if they did so.

IMG_2414All you have to do is declare that your home is ‘Not for Shale’ and you will be added to the growing legal block to stop fracking where you live. After just 24 hours there are already over 14,000 households in the UK who have signed up to this initiative!

But you need to act quickly, as there are hints that the government will soon try to change the law to support their dash for gas.

Input up your postcode and join the legal block now at http://www.wrongmove.org/ . It will only take a few seconds!

Please do this now as this is a very important initiative fight to ensure that the Fylde is not sacrificed for a badly regulated a short term energy fix.

Defend Lytham Media Reaction to the Annas Road Abandonment

Here are links to our radio interviews with Radio Wave and Radio Lancashire today

Radio Wave carried a short interview this morning – listen by clicking here

Radio Lancashire had a headline item featuring Mr Egan and his Pink Footed Geese and Whooper Swans (or should they be “whopper” swans?) – listen by clicking here

Radio Lancashire carried a longer piece with an interview with John Hobson of Defend Lytham in the main News section of the Drive Time programme clicking here

It is interesting to note that when asked by Judy Hobson during this interview “have there been conditions like this put on any of your other sites” Mr Egan responds with an unequivocal “No”

However, when Cuadrilla were in court in 2012 and the question of their having worked for 3 months beyond their existing planning permission was raised, we learned from Stuart Perigo Head, of Planning from Lancashire County Council, that “by drilling in winter they had failed to meet a key condition to safeguard bird life from the adjacent Ribble Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest. The defence argued that this may have resulted in a breach of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

It’s never easy to know how much we can expect Mr Egan to remember when he is interviewed, but we do like to remind him after the event of the things that slip his mind.

Local MP in shock announcement on fracking

Sadly, not one of our local MPs though.

We are talking about Charlie Elphicke MP for Dover.

This is how his conversion was reported in his local paper

MP now adds his support to the anti-fracking fight

MP Charlie Elphicke has opposed the applications for exploratory drilling in East Kent and says he will raise the issue with Ministers.

More than 200 residents first heard the news that they had the backing of their MP at a meeting at Shepherdswell Village Hall last Wednesday.

The meeting was held by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) with a panel consisting of chairman Richard Knox-Johnston, hydrologist Graham D. Warren, Dover MP Mr Elphicke and district councillor Mog Ovenden.

Mr Elphicke said: “Shale gas exploration offers the opportunity for lower energy bills but I’ve always said we have got to balance that against safety – the risk to the water aquifer and our drinking water is too great.

“So I oppose these applications. In other areas that are more suitable and don’t have the same risks we should explore it but we use the aquifer for all our drinking water. If it could be contaminated this is a risk I don’t think we should take.”

When asked if this was a conflict of interest for the Tory MP, whose leader David Cameron is in support of fracking, he said that as an MP he supports the needs of his constituency first.

Dover’s Labour parliamentary candidate Clair Hawkins was also at the meeting and said that Mr Elphicke’s views had “suddenly shifted”. She said: “After telling chair of CPRE Kent Richard Knox-Johnston he was ‘muddled up’ in a recent BBC Radio Kent interview, Mr Elphicke sat next to Mr Knox-Johnston on the panel and said he is now against the planning application.

“While I welcome this change of attitude we now need to see some action. Mr Elphicke must stand up for the community against both his friend George Osborne and his dash for gas and the fracking companies and their determination to make a fast buck with big tax breaks.”

Stuart Cox, from East Kent Friends of the Earth said: “I’m pleased Charlie Elphicke now opposes fracking in Kent and agrees the risk of water contamination is too high to take but he must now reject fracking nationwide.”

There are three applications from Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd to drill for coal bed methane gas in Guston, Shepherdswell and Tilmanstone. CPRE hydrologist Graham D. Warren explained that due to high angle faults in the coal measures under the three sites, the pressure of even exploratory drilling could fracture the already thin chalk and therefore chemicals could leak into the water supply.

We are very much looking forward to similar insights from our local and national political representatives.

The Blackpool Gazette brings fracking to the fore

On Thursday 3rd October we read an editorial in the Blackpool Gazette which summed up a lot of how we believe local people feel about fracking. It was a reaction to the premature and arrogant statement by Prime Minister, David Cameron, that he wanted Blackpool to become the European capital of fracking.

We are reproducing it here because we feel it is well worth a read.

You can see it and the accompanying article here


Is arrogance behind our Frackpool rebranding?

So Blackpool is set to become the European capital of the shale gas industry is it?

Funny, I don’t ever remember the Prime Minister asking us residents before he decided to erect a new sign post at the end of the M55.

It appears David Cameron has got so far ahead of himself in his love affair with fracking that he is now declaring open season on rural Fylde’s rich shale gas potential.

“With its resources under the ground, let us make Blackpool the centre of Europe for the shale gas industry,” he told yesterday’s Tory Party conference.

Excuse me Prime Minister, who exactly are the “us” you talk of when rebranding the Fylde as New Aberdeen.

Maybe he was playing to the Manchester conference crowd, given the less than flattering remarks by one Tory peer who recently described life up here as the “desolate north”.

Or perhaps he genuinely believes the residents of South Fylde are as excited by shale gas as he is.

Sadly, as usual, when the highly contentious issue of shale gas and fracking is condensed into a soundbite nobody mentions the key issues residents here are asking, and none more so than that of regulation.

Over recent months we have heard all the rhetoric of “gold standard” regulation, but nobody in government is actually coming forward to explain exactly what that is.

There is little doubt some see shale gas as a key part of this country’s future energy make-up.

There are plenty who say it is safe, others armed with studies from around the world who vehemently argue against it.

The truth is that the jury on the reported risks versus the potential cash benefits is still well and truly out.

But what David Cameron has done in his speech yesterday is do nothing but raise the fears of those who feel they have not been given enough information or answers on either the scale of the industrialisation or how it will be policed, if indeed it is even given the go ahead.

At present shale gas firm Cuadrilla does not have permission to frack at any of its Fylde coast sites.

That has to be approved by Lancashire County Council.

It appears – given yesterday’s rebranding of Blackpool as the “European centre of shale” – this crucial local approval is seen as nothing more than a box ticking exercise by those in Westminster – even before we get to read a single Environmental Impact Assessment.

Given local councils are increasingly losing the power to decline rural housing developments, what chance of turning down a gas boom?

Wherever you stand on the issue, the people of the Fylde coast deserve better than such arrogance – we certainly deserve better than being used as a cheap conference one liner which could have major and lasting implications.

Cuadrilla abandon Anna’s Road

We have learned that Cuadrilla plan to permanently abandon their site at Anna’s Road. It seems that they would like us to believe that their concern for over-wintering birds is so great that they are prepared to forgo the rewards from the commercial exploitation of the site.

We are, of course, aware that Cuadrilla have experienced various technical issues at their site at Anna’s Road, (as they seem to have done nearly every time they have drilled so far) and that this well was effectively abandoned some time ago.

It is worth noting that the site was very visible and close to local population centres in Lytham and St Annes, and so it could easily have become a focal point for protests of the type we saw taking place in Balcombe.

It comes as no surprise to us that they have decided to cut their losses and discontinue operations there.

Defend Lytham have always maintained that the site is totally inappropriate for a shale gas development given its proximity to housing and the inadequacy of the local infrastructure. We would point out though that with over 100 well pads needed to produce the volumes of gas claimed, every site developed will inevitably be near a populated area. This is just one skirmish in what may well prove to be a long war.

We are not sure how seriously we are expected to take Cuadrilla’s suggestion that they have decided to cease operations to protect over wintering birds. It sounds rather preposterous, given that by drilling past the time specified in the planning permission for the Banks site near Southport in Winter of 2011, they had failed to meet a key condition to safeguard bird life from the adjacent Ribble Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest. Perhaps they have forgotten that already?

We would of course be interested to know what the real reason for this abandonment is.

Defend Lytham’s Reaction to David Cameron’s Conference Speech Today

David Cameron said in his closing conference speech today “With its resources under the ground, let’s make Blackpool the centre of Europe for the shale gas industry.

Defend Lytham can understand why, after recent comments made by his ministers, Mr Cameron would want to try to persuade the “desolate” and “unloved” North West that he really does have our interests at heart, but this suggestion is totally unconvincing. The idea that Blackpool could become some sort of new Aberdeen is as fantastical and baseless as Mr Cameron’s recent claims that shale gas will reduce our domestic energy prices.

The reality is that any economic stimulus from the shale gas industry for Blackpool and the Fylde would be very short time and most of the employment opportunities would be for a small number of skilled workers imported from abroad.

The real thrust of what he wants for the shale gas industry can be found elsewhere in his speech “Regulation – down” and “Taxes – cut for businesses”. Nowhere in his speech did we hear about any concern for the blight which shale gas exploitation will inevitably bring to local communities.

Mark Menzies – Defend Lytham ask him for answers on shale gas

Mark Menzies MP

Mark Menzies MP

Defend Lytham has sent a list of 38 questions relating to shale gas extraction to local MP Mark Menzies and will publish his responses on our web site.

The extensive list of questions can be found at


John Hobson of Defend Lytham commented :

“ Shale gas operations in the UK are being forced through at breakneck speed, with little concern for regulation, and it is time we started to see exactly where our local and national politicians stand on this issue. We hope that Mr Menzies responses will give us all the reassurance that we need.”

Update 26/9/13

It seems from today’s LSE that Mark Menzies has received our list of questions

“A spokesman for Mr Menzies’ office confirmed the letter had been received and would be answered directly”

We look forward very much to receiving some reassuring answers!

Nice to see some balanced reporting

In today’s Lytham St Annes Express our letter commenting on Councillor Armit’s letter was published – slightly edited down, but it had been a detailed response.

Immediately after it (in the interests of balance we imagine) was a letter from our old friend David Haythornthwaite.

It was quite bizarre to read his comments as David, as many of you will know, was once the vice-chairman of Defend Lytham!

Now it seems David has done all the Defending he thinks is necessary and is pushing fracking with every letter he writes to the local press. (And he has written several).

It’s ironic that not very long ago he was using the threat of letting the site at Greenlands Farm be used for fracking (or David’s other bête noire – “social housing” ) as a means of getting approval for his football ground!

Greenlands farm

Greenlands farm

But that’s in the past, and as we can see, things and people change.

Now David is hoping we all get behind “the project” so we don’t miss this “golden opportunity”.

It does seem peculiar that somebody can spend two years complaining about the impact of a housing development on the town and then ignore the incalculably greater negative impact that fracking will have.

It’s like complaining about a wasp’s nest and ignoring the articulated lorry which is about to run you over from behind.

We do hope he wakes up before it’s too late!


Urgent Action – Proposed dilution of planning law

The government is proposing changes to existing planning regulations which would mean that the requirement to alert property owners, at the planning application stage, when their property may be undermined by hydraulic fracturing operations would disappear.

You can find details of the proposals by following this link

A template for an objection letter is provided below, but it is always best if you can remodel it slightly before sending

Dear Sir / Madam

I am writing to point out that your proposal to “amend the notice requirements for applications for planning permission for under ground oil and gas operation” by removing the notice requirement “for owners of land beyond this area ie the owners of land where solely underground operations may take place. ” is at odds with the law.

You will I trust be aware that any drilling under an individual’s property without consent constitutes trespass. The relevant case law can be found in “Bocardo Ltd v Star Energy Weald Basin Ltd”. I fail to see how that consent can be gained unless the applicant is made to make the interested party aware of the intention to drill. By removing this requirement you would effectively be abetting trespass.

Equally, it is essential for local communities know with reasonable accuracy where drilling takes place in order to monitor and measure impacts. Whilst having to be precise about their plans maybe slightly onerous for the drilling companies that is really no reason to propose the relaxation of necessary legislation / regulation.

Name : Adress : Date:

The opportunity to comment on these proposals is aimed primarily at developers and local authorities because of the technical content, but will have wider interest.

This paper was published on Monday 2 September 2013. We would welcome your views by Friday 14 October 2013.

Please send your views by e-mail to oil.gas@communities.gsi.gov.uk, or on survey monkey at:https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TYN2ZJQ

Alternatively, paper communications should be sent to:

Planning Infrastructure and Environment Division
Department for Communities and Local Government
1/J6, Eland House
Bressenden Place
London SW1E 5DU

The World According to Our Politicians

The world according to our politicians sometimes seems to bear little resemblance to the real world in which we live.

This morning John Hobson from Defend Lytham was interviewed live on air by Radio Lancashire down at the pier in St Annes.

The interview was requested because Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary had made statements about shale gas extraction the previous day.

In fact Radio Lancashire ran a series of interviews.

In the first of these Ed Davey sounded very uncomfortable as he tried to justify the government’s totally inconsistent approaches to the issues of energy pricing and regulation.

You can listen to it by clicking this link

After this Matt Lambert of Cuadrilla reassured listeners about the safety of shale gas. Now Mr Lambert is a perfectly amiable man, but his grasp of the technology is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that he corrected me, at the public consultation in Freckleton, when I asked him about the 100 well pads that Francis Egan said they would need, and told me it was 100 wells not well pads. So this chap, who thinks that Cuadrilla can extract nearly a trillion cubic feet of gas a year using just 100 wells (and not the 4,000 that Mr Egan’s 100 well pads would suggest), feels qualified to reassure us of the safety of shale gas. We think he needs to do a little bit more homework before feeling entitled to dismiss those who don’t agree with his simplistic assertions as “extremists”. Matt’s previous career was in the gambling industry with Betfair. How appropriate.

John’s interview mentioned the safety and regulatory issues and pointed out that Lambert’s other point – that shale was cleaner than gas – was giving a false choice.

You can listen to it by clicking this link

After 8 o’clock Mark Menzies, our local MP was interviewed. Now Mark hasn’t said a great deal publicly about fracking since 2012, even though it will probably be the biggest issue to affect the Fylde in our lifetime, so we listened with great interest. What did he have to say?

Mark Menzies on the front page of Cuadrilla's website

Mark Menzies on the front page of Cuadrilla’s website

Questioned as to what he meant by a Gold Standard for Regulations he stated that “by that I mean the sort of standards that we see in the North Sea, which in terms of offshore are the highest anywhere in the world“.

Perhaps Mr Menzies is not aware that the Off-Shore Safety Division of the HSE (which also looked after onshore rigs) was scrapped and absorbed into a single division covering the whole of the UK Energy Sector on April 1st this year. If this is what he means by a gold standard then we really do need to start worrying!

He went on to say that he wanted these “rigorous” offshore standards applied onshore and gave the example that he thinks “We should be looking at every site having Environmental Impact Assessments“.

Perhaps he hasn’t read the new guidelines from his own government which state “An Environmental Impact Assessment is only required if the project is likely to have significant environmental effects.” and that “it is unlikely that an Environmental Impact Assessment will be required for exploratory drilling operations which do not involve hydraulic fracturing unless the well pad is located in site which is unusually sensitive to limited disturbance occurring over the short period involved“.

When we asked recently whether the Conservatives would support an amendment in the EU making EIAs mandatory for every site, we received a statement of policy from Struan Stevenson MEP indicating that the UK Conservative MEPs would be voting against the amendment tomorrow.

Mr Menzies might trot out blithe statements on the radio about “every site having Environmental Impact Assessments” but it is clear that, even if he does have the best of intentions, nobody in his party is listening to what he says on the subject, and party policy is actively against making EIAs on exploration sites (which is what he says is needed) mandatory.

Challenged as to whether shale gas would mean cheaper prices Mr Menzies floundered in the clear blue water which separates David Cameron and Ed Davey on this subject, suggesting that if we found more gas than current estimates suggest is there then that would have an impact on prices. The consensus is that it would require massive production at a European level to have any downward impact on prices, so we didn’t find him at all convincing there. We suppose that it must be difficult as an MP to have to choose publicly between the conflicting statements made by your Prime Minister and your Energy Minister. In choosing to float in the middle here we don’t think he’ll have pleased either of them, let alone his constituents.

Asked whether fracking should be allowed to resume in our constituency he claimed that “a lot of this now sits in the hands of Lancashire County Council, who as Mineral Rights Authority have got rights over planning

Perhaps he is unaware of the fact that the new planning guidelines limit the role of the County Council to deciding on whether any application represents “an acceptable use of the land, and the impacts of those uses” and effectively forbids them considering “any control processes, health and safety issues or emissions themselves where these are subject to approval under other regimes. Minerals Planning Authorities should assume that these non-planning regimes will operate effectively.” The new proposals would forbid the Mineral Planning Authority from considering “demand for, or consider alternatives to, oil and gas resources when determining planning applications, and would place great pressure on them to “give great weight to the benefits of minerals extraction, including to the economy, when determining planning applications” which would leave any decision against shale gas development open to legal challenge. The government that Mr Menzies is part of is busily stripping away the powers of the Mineral Planning Authority, so his statement above is frankly quite meaningless.

Challenged that “Campaigners say that regulations have been watered down” Mr Menzies states that “there is absolutely no evidence at all of any safety regulations being watered down – the opposite and that will continue to be the case

Apart from the fact that, if he had been listening, he would have heard John give 4 very specific examples of how safety regulations and planning guidelines have been emasculated over the last 6 months, he surely can’t fail to be aware that Mr Cameron famously stated that “No regulation must get in the way” of shale gas extraction. Again we can only conclude that his well-meaning statements are being totally ignored by those with the real power.

Maybe it’s time that Mr Menzies started making a little more noise and being a bit less accepting of the way in which the Government that he is part of is ignoring the things that he is reasonable insisting that we need!

You can listen to it by clicking this link (It is preceded by short extracts from Matt Lambert & John Hobson)

Frack Free Lancashire

Fracking In the UK

Fracking The UK

If you want to learn about fracking this book comes highly recommended!

"Untrustworthy, unbalanced and potentially brain washing." - Amazon Review - Yes the industry hates this book that much :-)