News that the UCLAN event, Energy Futures: Global Challenges Debate, has been cancelled has been met with dismay by local residents. The debate was due to have taken place at the University of Central Lancashire on Wednesday 22 March. Residents, as well as UCLAN students and staff, were looking forward to hearing speakers from the shale gas and nuclear industries as well as representatives from the Green Party. Residents were particularly looking forward to hearing what Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan had to say, given his company’s reluctance to engage with local communities since it began drilling in the Fylde in 2010.
A UCLAN spokesperson said: ‘Having conducted a thorough risk assessment of our venue and facilities, and having received advice from a number of external agencies including the police, and internal participants, on health, safety and security issues, the University has decided to postpone the planned debate. We were very keen for students, staff and University guests to experience an open debate of all the energy issues in a welcoming and safe environment. However, the intelligence we have received has led us to conclude that it would not be possible for our speakers, audience and the wider University community to have a free, open and safe debate in the format planned.’
Some members of the public had also voiced their opposition to the event, due to the poor representation of renewable energy sectors on the panel.
Residents Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF) said: ‘At a time when parts of Lancashire are about to face intense industrialisation in the pursuit of shale gas, this event provided a golden opportunity for both the industry and residents to engage in an open debate in a neutral setting. To bow out, citing safety issues, is cowardly. We find it ironic that the organisers mention safety as a major issue, when our county is about to face massive public health and environmental dangers from the extensive planned extraction of shale gas. Once again, we are being denied the right to be heard. At what point will Francis Egan be prepared to sit on a platform and answer our questions?