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Lancaster ‘Suffragettes’ protest fracking at Tory Party Conference

Coun Gina Dowding with protesters in London
Coun Gina Dowding with protesters in London

Dressed as Suffragettes, women from Lancaster descended on the Conservative Party Conference to protest against fracking in Lancashire.

Lancashire County Coun Gina Dowding, who represents Lancaster Central, joined women who live close to Cuadrilla’s fracking site at Preston New Road near Blackpool to protest the government’s proposals to fast track shale gas extraction.

The women were dressed as Suffragettes to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of some women getting the vote, and bore the message that “women did not vote for fracking”.

They gathered outside a fringe meeting at the conference in Birmingham on Monday October 1 where Minister for Energy Claire Perry MP spoke alongside fracking industry representatives.

Last month Coun Dowding led the march from Parliament Square to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to deliver a message to Ms Perry, but the minister did not wish to meet the group.

Last week, Lancaster City Council passed a motion led by Green Party City Councillor Caroline Jackson to oppose fracking in the Lancaster District, and call upon the government to reconsider its policy of encouraging fracking.

County Coun Gina Dowding

County Coun Gina Dowding

Coun Jackson said: “Conservative MPs and Councillors up and down the country are rejecting the Government’s plans to make gaining permission for shale gas drilling as easy as it would be for building a shed, and to take fracking decisions away from local authorities.”

Coun Dowding said: “In the last couple of months key milestones have occurred in the development of the fracking industry.

“Things are ramping up to another level. Just last week the anti-fracking campaign movement saw three of its members sentenced to immediate imprisonment as a result of being found guilty of a charge of ‘public nuisance’ at Preston New Road - a charge rarely used against protesters when ‘truck surfing’ as they try prevent the movement of equipment into the fracking site.

“It’s easy to forget that fracking has not yet started anywhere in the UK although Cuadrilla, the company involved in shale gas extraction in Lancashire, says that the first frack is now imminent.”

Gina Dowding, standing, with Caroline Jackson, Emily Heath and Mollie Foxall with their boat Fracky McFrackface to protest against fracking in Lancashire

Gina Dowding, standing, with Caroline Jackson, Emily Heath and Mollie Foxall with their boat Fracky McFrackface to protest against fracking in Lancashire

Lancashire’s development control committee’s earlier decision to decline permission was overruled by the Minister Sajid Javid in October 2016.

Coun Dowding explained: “Final consent for fracking at the first completed fracking well at Preston New Road was signed off by Minister Claire Perry a day before the Parliamentary recess back in July this year, removing any chance for MPs to question and debate the issue.

“Consent for the second completed well on the pad for four wells was given consent on 19 September – again when Parliament was not sitting.

“Meanwhile Government Ministers have plans to push through proposals to fast-track fracking by re-defining exploratory drilling as Permitted Development. “Their plans would also move fracking decisions at the production stage from local council control to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime.

Police surround Coun Caroline Jackson outside Cuadrilla's fracking site in Preston New Road.

Police surround Coun Caroline Jackson outside Cuadrilla's fracking site in Preston New Road.

“These plans are widely being met with resistance by national environmental groups including the Campaign to Protect Rural England, and have proven highly controversial with even a number of Conservative-controlled councils including Lancashire and Nottinghamshire passing motions against the proposals.”

Last year Coun Dowding said she had “no regrets” after being found guilty of obstructing the highway during a fracking protest at Preston New Road.

She was one of 12 people, including two other councillors, who “locked on” to barrels and pipes outside the fracking site in July.

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She said: “Women are now getting indignant and more militant.

“We feel our voices to protect our children and the planet are being ignored. Impending climate chaos is too big an issue to turn a blind eye to.

County Councillor Gina Dowding and Fylde resident Nick Danby at the 13-person lock-on at Preston New Road

County Councillor Gina Dowding and Fylde resident Nick Danby at the 13-person lock-on at Preston New Road

“We now demand that our elected representatives take action, and bringing a new fossil fuel on lie is not the answer.”

Gina added: “If these dangerous proposals go ahead it will seriously undermine local decision-making and silence the voices of communities. Fracking is being forced on our communities against the wishes of local people and democratically elected Councillors.

£”We have travelled to the Conservative conference to say enough is enough.

“There is now an added poignancy to our presence at the Tory Party conference as we have now seen three men jailed for the first time in the anti fracking protest for taking part in protest.

“They didn’t hurt anyone; they didn’t steal from anyone and did not damage anything.

“They were doing what is just and right. There is an urgent need to respond to the clear and present danger of climate chaos - before it’s too late.”