Anti-fracking activists gathered in their hundreds at a rally in Ellesmere Port town centre addressed by local Labour MPs together with a leading member of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow team.
The rally and march was organised by Ellesmere Port Frack Free, members of the Frack Free Coalition, and supported by West Cheshire Labour, West Cheshire Liberal Democrats and West Cheshire Greens.
Feelings are running high because of IGas operations in Ellesmere Port and nearby Ince Marshes, where actual fracking is proposed as part of a test well in Grinsome Road, Elton.
Opponents fear earthquakes, air and water contamination and reject a future based on burning fossil fuels because of the impact on climate change.
Ellesmere Port resident Ged Isaacs welcomed everyone to the event.
He pointed to the record of the industry, which in the case of Ellesmere Port, gained planning permission to explore for coal-bed methane but in fact drilled much deeper down to check out the shale layer.
Key note speaker Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, shadow secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, told the crowd: “I can categorically state, when Labour is in power, our position on fracking is quite simple: We’re going to ban it! No ifs no buts – a full ban on fracking.
“If we start down the road of fracking, it locks us into an energy infrastructure that is in favour of fossil fuels at a time when we should be focusing on renewable energy and creating a better and cleaner world for our children and grandchildren.”
MPs for Chester, Ellesmere Port, and Weaver Vale supported her stance.
Addressing the crowds, city MP Chris Matheson said: “When IGas tried to frack just outside Upton, it was people standing here in this crowd today who made sure they didn’t. It was the local community and it was those men and women who got cold and wet living in a field to make sure fracking couldn’t happen. When you bring the activists, the political representatives and the community together, we’ve demonstrated that we can win.”
Tina Rothery, an activist from a fracking site near Blackpool, addressed the crowd, saying: “The industry had ambitions to start full speed ahead in 2012, but since then has been successfully held off due to the actions of everyday people like us. It has still yet to undertake a successful fracked well in this country.”
She said for an individual the step into opposing the industry was ‘very scary’ but people gained strength by coming together.
“Cheshire has the worst of all worlds,” she said. It provided sand for the fracking industry which, if allowed to take off, would require massive expansion of existing sand quarries.
It also had the second biggest chemicals industry in the country, ‘hungry’ for this fuel and prepared to support this industry, together with some of the ‘richest shales in the country’.