On Wednesday 12 November Energy Minister Matthew Hancock visited Blackpool and the Fylde. The Blackpool visit was well publicised -all the major newspapers and some TV channels covered his opening of what the Government calls the UK’s ‘first national UK onshore oil and gas college’. His visit to the Fylde wasn’t quite so well covered; in fact it seems to have been shrouded in secrecy.
It seems that Hancock met with Fylde MP Mark Menzies and FBC councillors to discuss what? We don’t know but we don’t need three guesses to believe it was shale gas. Nothing wrong with that you might say - but we were alerted later that day by a Fylde Councillor to say that there had been a secret meeting and that she hadn’t been invited. A little digging around soon revealed that there had indeed been a meeting and that the merry band of select councillors included the likes of Fiddler and Threlfall but not Liz Oades or Heather Speak – the elected local and county councillors who represent the very people living close to the two proposed fracking sites in Roseacre and Preston New Road. In fact neither of them even knew that the meeting was taking place. Hancock didn’t make any effort to speak with these two councillors. By ignoring them our Energy Minister has shown a complete disregard and contempt for the electorate as well as a lack of respect and empathy. Well done to Gayzer from Frack Free Fylde who not only had a go at Hancock and Menzies at the FBC Town Hall, St Annes, but also filmed the encounter. You can watch it here
There is something very unsavory about Fylde Borough Council. A Council that shows such arrogance and indifference to its constituents deserves everything it has coming to it. Our MP and Councillors should be aware that groups like RAFF and all the other local anti-fracking groups are in constant contact with local residents and they are not happy. With an election only six months away, we’d have thought they might be showing a little more consideration.
This isn’t the first time Matthew Hancock has shown a lack of interest in Fylde residents. Barabara Richardson, Chair of the Roseacre Awareness Group (RAG) contacted him in August and September to invite him to meet residents in Roseacre, Little Plumpton and surrounds. You can read the email exchange below:
I have just found out that the Minister has indeed visited the NW today, with much publicity, yet extremely disappointed that he did not find time to come and speak to those residents who are likely to be directly affected by plans to frack in Lancashire. I find this discourteous and alarming.
The Minister can find time to visit local colleges so why not take time out to me with us as we kindly offered in September. Is he afraid of what we will have to say?
Can you please pass this on to the Minister and let him know our invitation is still open to him, and that next time he is in the NW, we hope he will find time to come visit us.
Chair of Roseacre Awareness Group
From: PS Matt Hancock (DECC) <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, 19 September 2014, 15:02
Subject: RE: Fracking – Invitation to Roseacre Wood proposed fracking site
Dear Ms Richardson,
Apologies in the delay in responding to this email.
The Minister is grateful for your kind invitation to visit Roseacre and other local villages. Unfortunately, due to diary pressure, he is unable to meet with you at this time. We will be in touch if a visit to the North West is planned in the near future, to discuss whether it would be possible to arrange a meeting.
Private Secretary to Matt Hancock MP
From: Barbara Richardson
Sent: 02 September 2014 11:30
To: PS Matt Hancock (DECC); MarkMenzies
Subject: Fw: Fracking – Invitation to Roseacre Wood proposed fracking site
We have not had an acknowledgement to our email below sent to the Rt Hon Matthew Hancock, on 27th August regarding fracking in Lancashire. This is not just a generic letter regarding the issue but a serious invite from the two communities who may well be the first to experience full blown fracking in the UK since the earthquakes of 2011.
I am sure you would want to hear our views and this is a sincere invitation to come and meet us face to face so you can hear for yourself the views of local residents and, hopefully, reassure us the Conservative Party have our best interests at heart.
I have also invited our MP Mark Menzies to join us if we can agree a suitable date. If this is the wrong email address I apologise and I hope Mark will forward to you or speak to you directly.
Chair of Roseacre Awareness Group
—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Barbara Richardson
To: MatthewHancock <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: MarkMenzies <email@example.com>
Sent: Wednesday, 27 August 2014, 15:00
Subject: Fracking – Invitation to Roseacre Wood proposed fracking site
The Rt Hon Matthew Hancock
We are writing to you as our new Energy Minister. We are the chairs of the Roseacre Awareness and Preston New Road residents Groups (representing two groups of over 200 residents) who will be directly affected by Cuadrilla’s two recent planning applications to drill and hydraulically fracture for shale gas here at Roseacre Wood and Little Plumpton in the heart of rural Fylde, Lancashire. If permission is granted (determination due November) these will be the very first wells to be high volume, intensively ‘fracked’ in the UK since the earthquakes at Preese Hall in 2011, just 6km from here.
We would like to invite you, and your representatives, to come and personally speak to our residents, from the villages of Roseacre, Wharles, Treales, Little Plumpton and Westby, i.e. those people who will be directly affected should these plans go ahead. We have had several meetings with our MP Mark Menzies on this issue, plus numerous discussions with local councillors, but there are still matters to be addressed. In view of the intense media attention (we have already been the subject of several press and media reports), we feel it would be a politically astute, and beneficial, move for you to come and speak to the people first hand about their concerns rather than hearing from government departments, industry experts and the actual operators. So far, we feel we are not being listened to despite months of effort to try and make our voices heard and we implore you to come and see us for yourself.
We appreciate you are a very busy man which is why we are inviting you now so we can set a date possibly to coincide with another NW visit. We previously invited the Prime Minister but he passed onto Michael Fallon, the then Energy Minister, and we heard nothing more. This was a missed opportunity considering fracking is such a major issue at present and will continue to be so for some time to come.
If you agree we would also invite our local parish councils and local press. We can assure you we are not a bunch on uneducated ‘nimbys’ but a well educated cross section of society. Peviously most of us were life long conservative voters but unfortunately this is no longer the case.
There are specific issues we would want to discuss including the DEFRA report, socio-economic benefits as well as the potential impacts on our health and environment. We could agree these, and Agenda, before hand.
Please, please consider this invitation seriously. You would be most welcome here and we are sure you would appreciate seeing first hand that this is not the desolate North!
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Barbara Richardson Pat Davies
Chair of Roseacre Awareness Group Chair of Preston New Road Residents Group
Time to ask our MP and Fylde Borough Councillors what’s going on. You can contact Menzies on firstname.lastname@example.org. Your Fylde councillors can be found here. As residents of the Fylde we deserve better than this. Our Energy Minister can be contacted at email@example.com