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People Power in action: Communities in England resist fracking

By Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Working side-by-side with communities threatened by fracking, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland is fighting to prevent dangerous shale gas extraction.

The tenacity of local residents and campaigners across the United Kingdom has kept the fracking industry at bay since 2011. Lancashire residents have been leading the campaign locally to protect communities from fracking. Their extraordinary efforts have won support from all over the country and helped keep the UK frack-free, despite the UK government's staunch support for the industry.

"We have discovered that we have a community through this movement and support is growing stronger by the day," said Ian Roberts from Residents Action on Fylde Fracking. "We have an incredible network of autonomous but united groups throughout Lancashire and the UK and links with individuals and groups in Scotland, Ireland and Canada."

Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland has provided legal and planning advice and expertise, and launched legal cases on behalf of communities to challenge UK government decisions. They have also helped supply monitoring equipment to register changes in air quality and noise, and provided training and materials.

The campaign against fracking has been taken to a national level, targeting the UK government and slowing the industry's progress. In 2015, the Lancashire County Council voted to block fracking at Preston New Road ‒ but the UK government overturned the ruling and gave fracking the final go ahead in July 2018.

As machinery was delivered to Preston New Road, mobilisations intensified. Hundreds of people, religious groups, unions, farmers and families demonstrated. The project is behind schedule, largely due to the daily opposition from local people at the roadside and hundreds of people regularly flocking to the site to support them.

The government has proposed fast-tracking fracking in England by making it a "permitted development", which would remove the need for fracking companies to apply for council planning permission. Friends of the Earth are heaping pressure on the government to drop this proposal, in which fracking would be covered by the same planning rules as putting up a fence.

Around 40,000 people have signed a petition urging the government to allow local councils to make planning decisions on fracking, and to not allow fracking companies to drill without the need to apply for planning permission.

Barbara Richardson lives in Roseacre, just 500m from another proposed Cuadrilla fracking site. The more she learnt about fracking, the more horrified she became about its impacts not just on her community, but every community across the UK. A member of the Roseacre Awareness Group, Richardson said: "I am determined to fight fracking as I know what the risks are and the potential threat to my community. If we lose here in Lancashire it will encourage energy companies to apply for permission to frack all across the country. This would affect thousands of people as well as threaten our environment."

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Published in Chain Reaction #134, December 2018. National magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia.

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