I have visited the anti-fracking camp at Dutton Lane on a number of occasions because I share the protestors’ opposition to fracking in Upton and elsewhere.
I oppose fracking on the grounds that there remain serious doubts over its safety and its impact on the environment. I also believe we should be investing in green technologies to protect the environment and create new jobs. The flooding in Cumbria, the unseasonal weather this December, and now predictions that 2016 will be the warmest year on record: all these demonstrate that climate change is a reality we cannot ignore and action is required now.
On the 6th November I went to Manchester Crown Court to support the protesters from the Dutton Lane camp in their attempt to challenge their proposed eviction from the site. Whilst I was only there in a supportive and observational role, I was for a time barred from entering the court by officials. You can read more about this on the Standard’s website here.
Since then I have spoken in the Commons against the government’s proposals to allow fracking in national parks and sites of special scientific interest. This proposal reversed a government promise made just a couple of months before the General Election not to frack in these sites, and demonstrated a cynicism and dishonesty that devalues politics. I voted against allowing the proposal through as did my Labour colleagues, but sadly the Conservative majority passed the proposal.
Behind the scenes I know there is still important work going on to make the environmental and conservation case for halting fracking activity in Upton. I fully support Chester Zoo and the Labour Councillor, Matt Bryan, in their call for an urgent survey of the Dutton Lane site with regard to the Great Crested Newt population there. This blatant destruction of an important habitat for local wildlife is yet another reason why fracking cannot be allowed to go ahead.
Earlier this month, the Labour-led council in Cheshire West and Chester voted to ensure that all applications for unconventional gas extraction must be heard by the full planning committee and not granted under delegated powers like in the past. This is a big step forward because it takes decision-making on this issue into the public domain rather it taking place behind behind closed doors.