Located in a privately owned piece of land, between Preston and Blackpool, you’ll find the UK’s trial site for shale gas fracking. In 2018, the UK Government made a controversial decision when it gave the go-ahead for fracking to begin at Preston New Road, on the last day of Parliament before the summer break - an unanimous decision questioned by many.
Hythloday, a series by Norberto Fernández Soriano, is the result of the exploration of the fight against fracking from the community of activists known by the locals as “The Protectors”. The Protectors are a group of adherent individuals that focus on building a better world for everyone that inhabits it, from resisting to accept those activities that draw to a situation of more injustice. “Hythloday combines the characters and elements on the ground with the mood to create a journey through an unknown and strange place that reveals the tension between those portrayed and the land they inhabit. , raising questions about our relationship with the world itself.” Says Fernández .
Fracking has a highly important impact on communities, environment and democracy. Research has demonstrated that fracking has already had proven effects on the environment, people’s health and well-being and ultimately, climate change. Unconventional fracking had only taken place once before in the UK. In 2011, a small earth tremor in the series that lasted for 10 days, triggered the first ever red light in the government’s regulations on induced seismicity.
Ongoing plans in Lancashire have caused much uncertainty, anxiety and fear and local residents have come together determined to fight the planning applications for many years. The battle was not only against the onshore oil and gas industry, but the government who were in favour of fracking despite local opposition.
After much determination and hard work, Lancashire County Council, the Minerals & Waste Authority responsible for deciding if the plans went ahead, turned down an application. This was an unanimous decision made by local Councillors who cited road safety and traffic issues being the main reason for refusal. Barbara Richardson, said “I have learnt just how powerful the industry is (and not just the oil and gas industry but many others) and how much money they have to ensure they get their way. They spend millions of pounds on professional lobbyists and exert so much pressure all in the name of profit. They ‘spin’ things their way and have unfair access to both government and media unlike us ‘ordinary people’.”
Cuadrilla, the company operating the fracking sites, immediately appealed the decision and, a few months later, the Secretary of State for Local Government & Communities decided to ‘call in’ the application meaning their fate was left wistfully in the hands of the central government.
After two very long and arduous Public Inquiries, presided by two different independent Planning Inspectors, the Preston New Road site was approved to start work by the government, despite Lancashire County Council refusal and construction of the site began in January 2017. Since then ‘The Protectors’ have occupied the space every working day. From around 7.30am onwards, local people gather at the gates of Preston New Road drill site to show Cuadrilla they have no social licence to operate. An autonomous campsite has been set up to host anti-frackers with sleep space on the land and many people of all ages come here to take part in various protests. The anti-fracking movement is using a diversity of tactics to cause financial impacts on Cuadrilla and their investors and to show other fracking firms that the industry won’t be allowed to gain a foothold.
Since the fracking of shale gas at Preston New Road, there have been various recordings of dangerous earth tremors which has caused the government to put a stop to fracking at this site. Since then, in February 2019, the Secretary of State for Communities finally turned down the Roseacre Wood plans, an almost identical site, just down the road from Preston New Road.
See more of Norberto’s work Here.