Lancaster University students stage protest at ‘fracking investor’ Barclays Bank

Students Polly Davis and Jack Hoad outside Barclays Bank at Lancaster University. Photo by Ian Meeks
Students Polly Davis and Jack Hoad outside Barclays Bank at Lancaster University. Photo by Ian Meeks

Protests have been staged outside Barclays Bank at Lancaster University over the corporation’s investment in fracking and other fossil fuels.

Police were called to the branch in Alexander Square and spoke to students who had hung banners from the window and protested inside the bank from 11.30am on Friday February 12.

Sit-ins and occupations of Barclays branches have taken place in Lancaster, Leeds, Sheffield, London and Oxford.

The protest comes a few days after the beginning of Cuadrilla’s appeal of Lancashire Country Council’s decision to reject two of the company’s fracking applications.

Harry Carter, a Geography student at Lancaster University said: “The government’s plan to impose fracking in Lancashire has been met with widespread opposition.

“Westminster’s plans to overturn Lancashire County Council’s democratic decision are unacceptable.

“It’s no surprise that IGas’ was disappointed at the rejection decision, the latest round of fracking licenses issued in December could see Barclays-backed IGas apply to frack in Lancashire.”

IGas said that it holds no licences to explore for shale gas in Lancashire.

Campaign Group People and Planet said that Barclays holds around a £2m stake in IGas and owns a 97 per cent controlling stake in Third Energy making it a key financier of fracking in the north of England.

A spokesman for IGas said that Barclays Bank does not hold a £2m share in IGas, but documents show that “Barclays PLC via its funds” holds a 4.14 per cent share in October 2015.

There has been an ongoing opposition to Barclays’ financing of fracking with over 8,000 people sending letters to Barclays Chairman John McFarlane calling on Third Energy to withdraw its plans to frack in North Yorkshire.

Molly Hopkinshaw, a Frack Free campaigner, said: “Those of us in the ‘desolate north’ are fed up of being treated as a sacrifice zone simply to further the government’s ideological dash for gas, which is both dangerous and undemocratic.

“Just like those fighting on the front line against fossil fuels across the world we are standing up and saying no. We are here to say to Barclay’s that they can’t hide behind their flashy high street branches.

“We know what they are doing and we will not let them continue.”

Campaigners are calling on Barclays to divest over £1.2bn holdings from ‘extreme energy’ producers, including Shell, BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Third Energy.

A spokesperson for Barclays Bank said: “Through Global Natural Resources Investments, Barclays has a majority stake in Third Energy: a British business with a history of investment and good corporate citizenship in North Yorkshire.

“Third Energy has been drilling, developing and producing gas in the region for over 20 years, with an excellent environmental and safety record.

“We are conscious of the concerns of local communities and other groups over potential environmental and community impacts, which we take seriously and will continue to monitor.

“We have worked closely with Third Energy to ensure their plans are compatible with our values and any future shale gas extraction activity will be subject to the full planning process, including environmental assessment and public consultation.”

Naia Lopez, Fossil Free campaign coordinator at People & Planet said: “We have a historic responsibility to call out British companies profiting from the destruction of Indigenous and frontline communities.

“Barclays was forced to end its historic investments in apartheid South Africa following student campaigning. Grassroots action can force them to stop bankrolling extreme energy in the UK and worldwide.”

The group said Barclays financed the Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia with $3.534bn over 2009-13.

They say the last families are currently being removed from the village of Roche, and the community of Las Casitas faces imminent removal to allow for further expansion of the mine.

Samuel Arregoces, from the village of Tabaco, which has yet to be resettled since its eviction to make way for Cerrejón mine expansion in 2001, said: “Banks, like Barclays, that finance multinationals like BHP Billiton are responsible for environmental disasters.

“They finance the destruction of the environment, the dispossession of communities and their cultural extermination.

“This is blood coal money, this is Guajira displacement money.

“We ask that those who finance BHP Billiton are held accountable because their money comes at the cost of the suffering and tears of ethnic communities in La Guajira.”

These actions are building on the momentum of the recent fossil fuel divestment victories in the UK. In the past six months, 14 universities divested from fossil fuels, including the University of Sheffield, the University of Warwick and the London School of Economics. These commitments mean around £4.3billion of UK university endowments are committed to be divested from some form of fossil fuels over the next 5 years.

Today over 30 student actions across the UK have taken place demanding that universities and banks divest from fossil fuels. Students in Edinburgh have continued to push for their university to divest from all fossil fuels and blockaded Edinburgh University finance building.

Students from several London universities marched in the city centre with a 300m red line.