Gaffe-prone Tory Lord Howell’s slur on our county

Marton Mere Nature Reserve in Blackpool. Below: The Wyre estuary and Lord Howell.
Marton Mere Nature Reserve in Blackpool. Below: The Wyre estuary and Lord Howell.

Think of lush and verdant Lytham Green, the tranquil splendour of Marton Mere, or the aesthetic delight of watching a summer sunset over the sea from the top of the Tower. Is “desolate” a word which springs to mind?

According to one gaffe-prone Tory peer, this is exactly how he would describe the Fylde coast.

View down the Wyre estuary of Out Rawcliffe, Shard Bridge and Hambleton.

View down the Wyre estuary of Out Rawcliffe, Shard Bridge and Hambleton.

Lord Howell of Guildford, father-in-law of Chancellor George Osborne, had initially described the north-east of England as “large, uninhabited and desolate” during a House of Lords debate on fracking on Tuesday, suggesting the controversial shale gas extraction process should take place there rather than “beautiful rural 
areas”. But not content with digging a hole in the north east, he then insisted his comments had been aimed at the Lancashire coastline instead - sparking a rather damning backlash.

Labour MP for Blackpool South, Gordon Marsden, took to Twitter to decry his comments, saying Lord Howell had “turned the Watford gap into a chasm”.

Mr Marsden told The Gazette: “Both his comments on Lancashire and the north-east sum up the metropolitan arrogance with which the fracking policy is being conducted.

“I don’t think many people would have put it quite as crassly as Lord Howell, but it’s indicative of the mindset of the Government.”

The Rt Hon The Lord Howell of Guildford

The Rt Hon The Lord Howell of Guildford

Mr Marsden also encouraged Fylde residents to send Lord Howell photos of the area, adding: “Blackpudlians sending Lord Howell Lancashire snaps, could send him stick of rock too.”

Bispham-based photographer Glenn Upton-Fletcher, who won Veolia’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year, in the Botanical Realms category, said: “It’s ridiculous, I totally disagree with him.

“Our countryside holds an incredible amount of wildlife and we have some pretty special countryside.

“We have an important area around the Ribble estuary and the Wyre estuary is becoming more important too, so there’s a number of areas he could go to change his mind.”

Anti-fracking activist Gayzer Frackman, from Frack Free Fylde, said: “By making statements like this he’s doing our job for us.

“It’s just highlighting the fact of how ignorant the Government is.” John Westomoreland, secretary of the Fylde branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “It was clearly rather an irrational statement which I’m sure he regrets in hindsight.

“Clearly the Fylde is largely a rural area and we do have some quite wonderful countryside.”

What exactly did Lord Howell say?...

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Lord Howell said: “What was in my mind was much more the drilling going on off the Lancashire coast. But it came out of my mouth as the North East, which you can blame me for rightly. And that has created a great furore.

“It was a stupid error of mine to mention anywhere at all. The general story is right – that we want the derricks for fracking to be far away from residences in unloved places that are not environmentally sensitive.

“I don’t want to see gas fracking subsidised like wind farms are.

“A lot more care must be taken than has been the case with wind farms, which have caused terrible desecration.

“It’s odd that they’ve decided to do this in sensitive places down in Sussex.”

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