Fracking: Labour must stand with the people of Lancashire

Labour has a chance to show that, unlike the Tories, it is committed to tackling climate change


Next week Lancashire County Council will decide whether to accept or reject fracking company Cuadrilla’s two applications to frack in the area. Earlier this week the planning officer recommended approval for one of the applications.

Moratoriums have already halted fracking in Scotland and Wales, and fracking proposals have been seen off across the south of England. 

No wonder all eyes are on Lancashire. If fracking were to go ahead there, it would be the first fracking in the UK for over four years.

Back in 2011, it was Lancashire that first kicked off the fracking controversy. Cuadrilla fracked a well near Blackpool (still the only well to be fracked in Britain) which, among other issues, caused a minor earthquake, and has since been shut down.

Lancashire residents vs Osborne  

The locals remember, and have been tireless in fighting Cuadrilla’s latest fracking plans. There are now more than 35 community action groups that have been set up across Lancashire to oppose fracking, and an opinion poll showed that two-thirds of people in Lancashire want to see fracking stopped. 

I’ve spent a fair bit of time with these community activists over the past few months, and one thing that really concerns them is the scant concern from national government at the growing evidence of risks from the process, or the impact on them.

Whether it is the ban on fracking in New York State on public health grounds, or the thorough process underway in Scotland to assess risks to the environment, health and climate change – everyone seems to be taking the risks more seriously than the current government.

 The approach of the Conservatives seems to be ‘any way possible, at any cost’. This was clear from a leaked letter in which George Osborne reported a cabinet committee meeting which planned to help Cuadrilla push their fracking plans through, whatever the local community thought.

The Conservatives have done their best to use National Planning Policy to smooth the path for the frackers too, limiting the grounds that councils can turn proposals down, and changing the rules so that councils pay the legal fees of their opponents if they reject the application but then lose at appeal.

Good grounds for refusal 

Despite this, in the case of Lancashire, there remain strong planning policy reasons to reject both applications, including impacts on groundwater, carbon emissions, noise, traffic, and the landscape. 

Happily, rejecting the plans would also be in line with Labour party policy.

Caroline Flint confirmed again in parliament earlier this month that Labour’s formal position remains to oppose any fracking going ahead until the party’s ’13 conditions’ are in law – something that doesn’t seem likely any time soon with this parliamentary make up.

Labour can stand with people in Lancashire 

Perhaps more importantly for Labour though, this decision offers an opportunity for the party – at least at the local level – to stand with the people of Lancashire. 

It’s been clear for some time that any potential benefits for residents are so low they are far outweighed by the risks.

Cuadrilla’s own planning application highlights that there would be just 11 jobs created by each site – a figure that includes both ‘indirect’ and ‘induced’ employment, and Cuadrilla have themselves admitted that any impact on bills would be ‘basically insignificant’.

But for Labour, the benefits outweigh the risks. Cat Smith MP, who is asking residents to co-sign her objection letter to the council, and argued passionately against fracking in the run up to election, bucked the national trend and saw off a popular sitting Tory MP in Lancaster and Fleetwood.

Climate change means fossil fuels must stay in the ground

Neither can the moral case be ignored. With everyone from Obama to Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, now agreed that fossil fuels need to stay in the ground, and even the Pope stressing the urgent need for climate action, Labour should take a principled position to oppose fracking altogether on climate change grounds.

With the Paris climate talks looming, setting up a new fossil fuel industry when 80 per cent of the world’s existing reserves need to stay in the ground undermines attempts at climate action.

In Lancashire it is in Labour’s gift to keep fracking out of Britain; to take the side of residents, not the side of Osborne, Cameron, and Cuadrilla; to deliver for the local area; and help send a strong international message that fracking is not the answer.

Donna Hume is a political campaigner for Friends of the Earth. Follow her on Twitter

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24 Responses to “Fracking: Labour must stand with the people of Lancashire”

  1. Torybushhug

    Importing ever more people into the nation is causing havoc with wildlife on many fronts and also leading to ever more intensive agricultural methods to keep pace. The pious green establishment is blinded by it’s need to virtue signal at all costs.
    Note the Danish UKIP have won the GE there today, the establishment left punished once again for ignoring the people.

  2. Bard

    “Despite this, in the case of Lancashire, there remain strong planning policy reasons to reject both applications, including impacts on groundwater, carbon emissions, noise, traffic, and the landscape.” This comment seems to be at odds with the analysis of the LCC planning committee which did not find reasons to reject based on groundwater, carbon emissions, noise, and the landscape. They did find reason to reject one well based on traffic.

    It also seems to be at odds with scientific analysis introduced by the Royal Society in Edinburgh, the UK Royal Society, the US EPA, Public Health England, the Chartered Institution of Water Management, The Royal Academy of Engineering and an independent academic panel for the Scottish Government among others.

  3. The Mushy Pea

    What has that got to do with fracking in Lancashire?

  4. swat

    Lets think also about energy security, and not be so reliant on the decadent Arab Sheiks and Ruskies.

  5. Cole

    Wrong. The Social Democrats got most votes – more than at the last election. The UKIP types came 2nd. Of course this has nothing to do with fracking.

  6. Jimmy

    So the Establishment want fracking but ordinary people do not….

  7. Mike Stallard

    Donna, some questions.
    1. How many lobby people does Friends of the Earth have at the moment in Brussels? How much money does FotE spend on lobbying there?
    2. America does fracking: the price of petrol and diesel is going through the floor which is awfully convenient for OAPs like me. Don’t you care about us? I had not realised that the people of Lancashire can afford much more expensive petrol and diesel – I thought the North West was one of the poorer parts of the UK?
    3. I have a good contact in the oil industry and he assures me that tracking is perfectly safe and that he is involved with it and has been involved with for a couple of decades. He is a committed Socialist, by the way and comes from an old school Labour family.
    4. Anthropogenic Global Warming is now coming under serious scrutiny from scientists. (If you have been following you will know that this is correct).

    Knee jerk reaction – Hey! There’s a demo let’s join! – Is not going to cut the mustard. If the Labour movement is to move on, we must alls face up to the new world in which we now live, not hark back all the time to the 1960s.

  8. tanith


  9. andagain

    How many of these people who want to ban fracking also wanted to ban coal mining?

  10. Ali Abbas

    Mike, in answer to some of your questions:

    1. I don’t know. But I warrant it’s a tiny fraction of the number of lobbyists the oil & gas industry has in Brussels or the amount it spends on lobbying.
    2. Even the fracking companies acknowledge that shale gas extraction won’t bring down gas prices in the UK. And it certainly won’t affect the price of petrol & diesel. The best way to deal with energy price rises is to reduce our dependence on gas by insulating our housing stock better and investing in renewables.
    3. While it’s true to say that small-scale fracking of oil wells has been happening for decades, large-scale high-pressure fracking of shale deposits is a fairly recent development and there’s plenty of evidence from America that it’s far from perfectly safe.
    4. Yes, and the overwhelming majority agree that human activity is contributing to climate change.

    If the Labour movement is to move on, I agree we must all face up to the new world in which we now live – one in which the evidence clearly shows that we’re undermining the Earth’s capacity to sustain us, and the only rational response is to acknowledge the problem and stop doing the things, such as extracting more fossil fuels, that make it worse.

  11. Ali Abbas

    If you’re worried about energy security, a far more effective solution would be to reduce demand for gas by properly insulating our homes, supporting a shift from gas to electricity for space heating, and rapidly scaling up renewable energy capacity.

  12. Mike Stallard

    Are you really that insecure about a perfectly natural and well tried process which is bringing down the price of petrol and freeing you, a Socialist, from the tyranny of Saudi and other God fearing lands in the Middle East?

  13. Mike Stallard

    Beenthere. Done that. Still have to go out though in my car – or bus. Both need pretrol/diesel.

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  16. DrDavidLowry

    I was intrigued to read an article in the Financial
    Times at the weekend (Fracking industry looks to Pennsylvania for guidance). It
    reported that Cuadrilla has cited rural Pennsylvania in the US, home to
    America’s ‘fracking revolution’, as a model for Lancashire.

    Now local Lancashire County Council planning
    officers have given the green light to one of two pending applications from
    Cuadrilla to drill. The elected council members charged with endorsing planning
    permission should examine just what has happened in the model US state
    Cuadrilla cite.

    There was an article in the Washington Post on
    April 10 this year (Rise of deadly radon gas in Pennsylvania buildings linked
    to fracking industry,
    It reported a new study in the journal, Environmental Health Perspective, that
    revealed a “disturbing correlation” between unusually high levels of radon gas
    in mostly residences and fracking that has become the industry standard over
    the past decade.

    The researchers found that, in the same areas of
    the state of Pennsylvania as the fracking operations, there was generally
    higher readings of radon, with about 42 per cent of the readings higher than
    what is considered safe by federal standards.

    Moreover, the researchers discovered that radon
    levels spiked overall in 2004, at about the same time fracking activity began to
    pick up.

    Moreover, just last week, a federal investigation
    into links between fracking and drinking water contamination in Bradford and
    Susquehanna Counties in Pennsylvania found some private water wells had been
    damaged by methane and ethane migration caused by nearby fracking (Pennsylvania
    case studies mirror EPA’s national fracking report, State IMPACT NPR, 11 June,

    I agree with the observation by Cuadrilla boss
    Francis Egan, reported today (Go ahead for Preston New Road fracking test, LEP
    June 16) as saying “ The councillors will make up their own minds”. Before they
    do, I think the councillors need to make sure they are appraised of these
    studies before making their final fracking decision.

    Dr David Lowry

    environmental policy and research consultant


  17. Cole

    I thought even the government had admitted that fracking wouldn’t bring down the cost of energy. And we buy hardly any oil from the Arabs – but we sell them lots of arms (which is why we suck up to them even when they torture British citizens).

  18. Pippa Harris

    So annoying though that they still use a photo of a little nodding donkey, rather than the huge constructions necessary on a fracking gas field:(

  19. Pippa Harris

    Please, please don’t use the image of a ‘nodding donkey’ again when writing about unconventional gas extraction. This is an image of just one of the UK sites, only at the exploration stage.

  20. VimVendors

    We don’t import gas (fracking does not extract oil, it extracts shale gas) from the Middle East. We import some of our gas from Norway.

    Fracking produces so little gas that one well would take 30 years to produce enough gas to supply the UKs current demands for about a day.

  21. VimVendors

    The Arab Sheiks don’t supply us with any gas, which is what fracking claims to be able to do. You’re arguing about oil which is a completely different topic. Oh, and while Russia does supply some gas to Europe, none of it is to the UK. We buy gas from Norway who we don’t have any tense political relationships with.

    Fracking will in no way provide any sort of energy security. It will be more likely to produce fresh-water dependency on other nations as our water table becomes polluted.

  22. VimVendors

    Neither of which will be provided by shale gas. The key is in the name – gas, not crude oil.

    Fracking will not remove the need to import oil from other countries in order to power your car – or bus, until you can use an electric one – charged by renewable resources.

  23. VimVendors

    What’s with the trolling about OIL in all these suspicious pro-fracking comments? Which part of shale GAS extraction are people seemingly deliberately failing to understand?

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