UK-Balcombe protests lead to threat of countrywide rebellion against fracking30/07/2013 12:57
Source The Telegraph
by Louise Gray and Sally Wardle
The ongoing protests in Balcombe have sparked a countrywide rebellion against fracking as villages up and down the country vow they will also blockade any attempts to drill.
The “anti-fracking carnival”’ in the sleepy village of Balcombe, West Sussex, has now led to more than 20 arrests.
On Monday Marina Pepper, a former Page 3 Girl and veteran protester, was escorted off the site by police.
Despite concerns the village has been taken over by ‘professional activists” local residents are also taking action. They fear that plans by Cuadrilla, the energy company, to drill for oil in the area will lead to fracking.
Now it is has emerged that the protest could be the first of many as energy companies plan to drill exploratory wells across Britain.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change has issued 176 licences to explore for both conventional and unconventional oil and gas onshore across the UK.
All the companies have to do now is apply for planning permission and ministers have made it quite clear that they support exploration for new resources, with generous tax breaks. It is estimated there is enough shale gas alone to heat Britain for 40 years and bring down energy prices.
There are even promises that each community will be given £10m for allowing fracking over 10 to 25 years.
(Christopher Pledger for The Telegraph)
But local people insist they will stage protests just as passionate as the ongoing sit-in around Balcombe.
Tina Rothery of Residents Action on Flyde Fracking, said any plans to drill on the Lancashire coast, where fracking has already caused earthquakes will be met with protest.
“If anything we have learned from the protests at Balcombe and will help us to be more effective,” she said.
“The Government will not protect us, so we will protect ourselves. Anywhere in the country will fight to protect their water and air.”
Stephen Hall, president of the Greater Manchester Association of Trades Union Councils, said most of the Mersey Valley is threatened with not only fracking but pumping up coal bed methane.
“We don’t need it and we don’t want it. There are environmentally friendly alternatives possible that would give more jobs.
“People will use every avenue available for them to protest. If they cannot do it through objecting to planning permission they will take action on the streets.”
Ed Pybus, of Frack Off Scotland, said local residents of Airth, where there are plans to drill for coal bed methane, will protest as soon as every other avenue is exhausted.
“Thousands of local residents in Falkirk are against this development. They are pursuing their protests through council and Scottish Government. If after all this the drilling goes ahead there will be vigorous protests.”
Dave Truman of Cheshire and Wirral Action on Fracking said most of the county has licences for drilling, including the affluent areas on the west side of the Wirral.
“I don’t think people are any different from people down in Balcombe or people in Australia and the US. Once they know what risks are to the environment and the water table they will take action.”
(Christopher Pledger for The Telegraph)
Andrew Ogden of the Campaign to Protect Rural England in Kent, said villagers will demonstrate against drilling exploratory wells because of concerns that could lead to fracking in future.
“I think people will do the same once the lorries start coming in where the drilling is likely to happen.”
However Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory MP, who faces the threat of fracking in his own constituency of North East Somerset and indeed near his own home, said there was no need for a “knee jerk Nimby response”.
Nor did he approve of “rent-a-mob” or “buses of hooligans” coming in to protest.
He insisted the Shires of Britain will react in an appropriate and dignified manner once all the information has been gathered.
“There has to be a balance between the advantages of cheap energy against the disadvantages of damage to the countryside.”
Even if villages and towns are against drilling plans, he trusted they would protest lawfully.
“I wouldn’t expect to see local people taking to the streets but I would expect to see them taking to the law courts if necessary.”