Lobbying group for fracking in Lancashire supported by firms mainly outside county

Only 149 of the lobby group’s 343 small business supporters are based in Lancashire

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The Independent Online

A major lobbying group created to make the business case for fracking in Lancashire is mainly supported by firms outside the county, an investigation has revealed.

Supporters of the North West Energy Task Force, funded by the fracking company Cuadrilla, include an elderly care home in Yorkshire and a Welsh fishing resort, the research found.

Only 149 of the lobby group’s 343 small business supporters are based in Lancashire – less than half of the total, an analysis by Greenpeace has shown. Just 14 are based in the Fylde, where Cuadrilla wants to launch the UK’s first full-scale fracking exploration project.

The Task Force’s supporters include the London-based trade body Oil and Gas UK and the Morecambe and Lunesdale Conservative Association. Several small enterprises also appear to have been signed up as supporters multiple times.

The group receives financial support from Cuadrilla and its investment partner Centrica, which also owns British Gas, to push the case for exploiting Lancashire’s shale. According to its website, members “share a passion about creating jobs, developing skills and generating economic growth for people in our region”.

Cuadrilla’s applications to frack at two sites on the Fylde coast are currently being considered by Lancashire County Council. In January, the Task Force wrote to the council urging it to approve the plans, saying the letter had the backing of more than 100 local business leaders.

Cuadrilla’s applications to frack are being considered (Getty Images)

However, the list of signatories included Gweryd Lakes Fishing, an angling resort based in North Wales, and Summerfield Private Residential Home, a care home for the elderly in Yorkshire. The supporters inside the county include Charles Maxwell, a Liverpool-based events company that organises conferences for the shale gas industry – as well as Music Exchange Manchester, a sheet music and song book shop.

“This is another example of smoke and mirrors from a fracking lobby that has form in talking up its numbers,” said Liz Stanton of Greenpeace Preston. “What’s clear is that Cuadrilla is having to look outside Lancashire to drum up support for an industry which the majority of local people would rather see the back of.”

Gweryd Lakes Fishing, Summerfield Private Residential Home and Music Exchange Manchester did not respond to The Independent’s requests for comment yesterday. A spokesman for Charles Maxwell said: “We are, I guess, pro the industry, but for us it’s more of a networking thing.”

Other listed supporters of the Task Force include Ellis Plant Hire, a plant and tool hire company based in North Wales. Tom Lloyd-Ellis, the company’s owner, said: “I’m all in favour of fracking: it creates jobs. I’d support it around here too if they wanted to do it.”

A North West Energy Task Force spokesperson said: “We argue for the responsible development of shale gas because we believe it will benefit the North-west region. We think the positive impacts will be felt far and wide, including by B&B owners in Blackpool, fertiliser producers in Cheshire and professional service companies in Manchester.

“NGOs campaigning against shale encourage people to complain about the North-west’s shale projects from as far afield as Canada and the US so their complaint smacks of hypocrisy.”