Yesterday was a strange and contrary one. I had the opportunity to participate in two fruitful events for National Poetry Day: I gave a talk at the Lancashire Archives on ‘Lancashire Folklore Illustrated by Poetry’ and attended an open mic night organised by Damson Poets at the Ham and Jam Coffee Shop where people had the opportunity to share readings from favourite poets. Both were overshadowed by Sajid Javid’s decision to overturn Lancashire County Council’s rejection of Cuadrilla’s plans to frack at Preston New Road on the Fylde.
Fracking at Preese Hall on the Fylde was brought to a halt following two earthquakes in 2011 measuring 2.5 and 1.5 on the Richter Scale. It has not taken place in the UK since. Plans for fracking at Preston New Road and Roseacre have seen heavy opposition from local residents, the Preston New Road Action Group, Roseacre Awareness Group, Frack Free Lancashire, Friends of the Earth and the Anti-Fracking Nanas. Last year, Lancashire County Council listened to the people they stand for and refused Cuadrilla’s plans to frack at both sites. Both were rejected on the grounds of visual impact and noise and Roseacre also on road traffic issues.
In the government’s decision letter, ‘Javid said that while he agreed there would be some short-term visual and landscape impact at both sites from fracking rigs and works, the sites would be remediated later, and the cumulative impact was both limited and not significant.’ Fracking at Preston New Road is therefore scheduled to go ahead in April 2017 at the earliest. The decision on Roseacre has been delayed until Cuadrilla can provide more evidence on road traffic issues.
I was furious because Javid’s decision epitomises our London-based government’s lack of care and respect for the landscape of the already heavily industrialised north (this map shows over 75% of the proposed fracking sites are in northern England) and, in particular, for the people of Lancashire and our local councillors. I have long been disillusioned by party politics and this was the final straw in proving democracy is an illusion.
During my talk on Lancashire folklore I spoke of the aquifer beneath Castle Hill shattered during the building of Riversway Dockland causing St Mary’s Well to dry up, of the concreting over of Ladywell beneath the carpark of Brunel Halls, the death of our well spirits. Of the draining of Lancashire’s lowland raised level peat bogs and the poltergeist-like behaviour of our boggarts. Of the fairies who inhabit our imperilled underworlds. Of the spectral black dogs who haunt the gateways between the worlds and the Gabriel Ratchets who bark through the skies portending doom.
Although I maintained my composure, within, with those otherworldly hounds, I was snarling at the thought of history repeating itself again. The northern landscape wracked once more to fill the pockets of the rich. Bedrocks shattered. Aquifers poisoned. The dragon-spirits quaking beneath. Drills penetrating our underworld and injecting their venom without permission with blatant disregard and disrespect.
Throughout the day I noted perturbing ‘signs’. On my walk to the Archives a group of truanting boys tossing a dirty jumper between them, yelling in mock horror when touched by the derided bundle, as if it was something obscene. In a shady wooded area a glinty-eyed black cat laying low, ready to pounce, as it watched a squirrel. At the poetry reading more boys, as if whipped up by an ill wind, banging on the coffee shop window, shouting mocking words, giving the shop-keeper the middle finger.
Javid’s decision does not bode well on geographical, political, cultural or spiritual levels. The fracking drill hanging its nightmare-horse-like head over Preston New Road threatens to shatter not only our landscape but our illusions the government respect our landscape and will listen to the people they are supposed to represent. Our cynicism and wary predictions have been confirmed.
The snarling in the air last night, within the people, within the land, suggests that should the drill bite not only shale gas will rise like an ancient ghost from Lancashire.
You can sign Friends of the Earth’s petition to reject the government’s decision HERE.
‘Lancashire Responds’ – a protest organised by the Anti-Fracking Nanas, will be taking place outside Maple Farm, nr World of Water, on Preston New Road on Saturday 8th October (tomorrow) 10.00 – 17.00. More details HERE.