A group of campaigners who say they are “motivated by the continued economic decline in Blackpool” took to the street to show support for the shale gas industry on the Fylde coast.
The group, called Blackpool Fracking for a Better Future, describe themselves as local residents and arrived with placards, pamphlets and petitions. They say they held the St John’s Square demonstration on Saturday to capitalise on online support after the group’s Facebook page gained more than 500 members in less than a week.
Group spokesman Michael Beardall said: “It’s about jobs in Blackpool, turning round the economic decline and highlight that almost a third of all local children are living in poverty.
“This needs to change but without industry, what future do we have? I also have friends from Preston who share the concerns and they were livid that people were bused in from all over the country to protest outside the Lancashire County Council offices.”
The group says more than 100 signatures were collected during the demonstration, which lasted just more than an hour.
Mr Beardall added that it was “great to engage with other local people to discuss the decline of our great town, and that by engaging from that angle people better understood the need for industry in Blackpool.”
When asked about fears around the safety of fracking, he said: “I don’t claim to be an expert, so I leave that to the experts. Leading academics say it’s safe, the Environment Agency say it’s safe and the council planners did not raise any concerns over safety. ”
Energy firm Cuadrilla is seeking permission to frack for shale gas at two sites on the Fylde – Roseacre and Little Plumpton.
A county council committee meeting decision on whether to allow the go-ahead, due to be last month, has been postponed until April 30 at the latest. Officers had recommended the plans to refused on traffic and noise grounds, but the delay is to allow Cuadrilla to submit new information.
The group says it will “continue efforts to demonstrate that there is widespread support for the industry”, but added it was difficult to motive some to get involved.
Tim Cook, one of the co-founders of the group, said: “It appears many are too willing to accept that the majority of people oppose the industry, this certainly is not the case in Marton. This misconception stops ordinary people voicing their support. We would have had many more people here but they had real concerns over how their employers would react.”