Fracking comes North…

Paul Gerrard

Fracking has come to the Tories’ ‘desolate North’ – and with it the anti-fracking movement, which is beginning to strike roots in Salford, Greater Manchester.

I-Gas, a £250 million company, has been granted a licence to explore coal bed methane at Barton Moss in Salford. It is common knowledge that if they find methane they will want to ‘frack’ the shale beneath the coal bed, though for this they would need a further permit from the Labour-run council.

The site adjoins the M62 embankment and is next to an aerodrome and heliport. There are 1,500 homes nearby, with a council estate a couple of hundred yards away. The nearby M60 motorway is regularly clogged with traffic, either commuters or shoppers driving to the giant Trafford Centre two miles away.

From a health and safety point of view this development is insane. This is quite apart from the known health hazards of the ‘fracking’ process, which involves injecting water at high pressure, unspecified chemicals (‘commercial secret’) and sand into the shale. It means that dozens of tankers would be carrying clean water to the site, and removing waste water every day, churning up roads and generating noise and dust.

A camp has been set up by veterans of the Balcombe protest in the summer and local activists. Leafleting of nearby estates has begun to bear fruit – 55 mostly local people attended a public meeting organised by anti-fracking groups on 29 November, and next Sunday (8 December) is a solidarity day when trade unionists are invited to support a demo at the camp with banners and pennants.

Last Wednesday (27 November) the attempt to bring drilling equipment up the narrow access road onto the site was delayed as dozens of protestors blocked the road. A couple of hundred could prevent access entirely.

A Socialist Party leaflet with a ‘frack off’ window poster on the reverse was much appreciated and widely displayed. SP members have been active in pressing the council to provide waste bins at the protest site, getting donations, petitioning in Eccles and Irlam, and mobilising for maximum turnout on the Solidarity Day.

We say:

  • Labour must refuse any further permits!
  • Build for a mass mobilisation to close the site!
  • Nationalise power production and distribution under democratic control
  • Solve the energy crisis with a plan of production based around renewables
  • For a cross-city challenge to Labour in Salford in May 2014 with anti-cuts and anti-fracking candidates on the same platform