A 73-year-old grandmother blocked Britain’s first fracking site yesterday

The prospect of mini-earthquakes, contaminated ground water and gas leaking from the earth have pushed local people in Lancashire to take direct action.

Yesterday, I watched as three generations of a Lancashire family locked themselves together, blocking the entrance to Britain’s first fracking site.

In recent weeks, protests have erupted at the site of Cuadrilla’s drilling operations at Preston New Road, about 15 minutes south east of Blackpool.

If the company’s plans aren’t halted, Britain’s first horizontal fracking platform just outside of Blackpool, Lancashire, will begin its toxic extraction process in 6 months.

Cuadrilla have been looking for shale gas in the area since 2010 when they built four shallow wells, one of which caused two small earthquakes in Blackpool, leading to a temporary ban on fracking by the government (this was, stupidly, lifted in 2012).

The people of Lancashire are demonstrating that they will not be silenced and used as a laboratory for this unnecessary and dangerous industry.

‘I’ve never done anything like this before, but I can’t sit idly and watch the place I was born and raised be poisoned and polluted by fracking. I feel now I’ve got to make a stand. This will affect my whole family and their futures; my sons, my grandchildren – and that’s why we’re taking action together as a family today.’

Said Gillian, 73, blocking the Cuadrilla site yesterday.

In July alone the protests have caused operations at the site to be halted on eight separate days.

Last Monday, nine people including a Green party councillor, Gina Dowding, were arrested after blockading the new site for several hours. But the protests have continued.

Yesterday morning, I watched as three generations of a Lancashire family, including the grandmother, son and granddaughter locked themselves together, blocking the entrance to the site.

Gillian, 73, on right, blockading Cuadrilla’s fracking site

This month alone, tactics have included multiple blockades, a mass public demo last Friday, and people climbing onto delivery lorries.

A silent demonstration by over one hundred women from the anti-fracking community, entitled ‘Call for Calm’, sought an end to increasingly violent police and security tactics.

The action has been led by families from the area; those who will be directly affected by the toxic effects of fracking.

They will continue to resist, they will continue to win, and they will do so because of what they’re fighting for is the future of where they live. In the face of violence and industry bullying, they are guided by ferocious love and determination.

For Gillian’s granddaughter, Megan, aged 19, It was the last option open to her family.

“This is the last line of defence that we can come to. We want to fight for all of the families that have lived here all of their lives”.

It should never have come to grandmothers and granddaughters being locked together in the road, but when left with no other choice, more and more people are empowered to take action every day in ways they had never dreamed of.

What the people of Lancashire are showing us is that they won’t surrender, they won’t accept this failure of democracy that allows dangerous mining projects to proceed in the face of mass opposition. These families aren’t going to take this lying down.

Ash Hewitson is an activist from National Direct Action network, Reclaim the Power.

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