Next week, at a full meeting of Salford City Council, councillors are set to pass a motion on fracking, which has particular relevance, as Government documents show that IGas and its new partner, INEOS*, could begin drilling in Salford within four years (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
The motion, being brought by Councillor Derek Antrobus, Lead Member for Planning, and Councillor Rob Sharpe, falls short of a fracking ban on Council owned land. Last year, Bury Council banned fracking on all its land, with Council Leader Rishi Shori saying "Fracking is a zero sum game, you either accept the risk or you don't...and this council doesn't accept the risk."(see here)
The Salford Council motion merely "expresses concern that exploiting new sources of fossil fuel, including unconventional gas, undermines the commitments to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate climate change and diverts resources away from investment in a safe and secure renewable energy future".
A second part of the motion relates to the determination of the Tory Government to overrule local councils ability to refuse fracking via their own planning processes, as it has done in Lancashire...
"The Council notes the important environmental, health and safety issues involved in determining applications for hydraulic fracturing ('fracking') and believes that such issues are best dealt with by local communities through their local planning authority" the motion states
"This Council is strongly opposed to the commitment in the Conservative Party manifesto to weaken or override the Council's powers as a planning authority when considering any applications for fracking" it adds.
The third part of the motion relates to other sources of energy... "This Council will take steps, within its statutory powers and within the framework of the Greater Manchester Low Carbon Hub, to work to harness the abundant sustainable and renewable energy resources available locally; reaffirms its commitment to work towards becoming carbon neutral by 2050; and will review its strategy to develop a more challenging target" it states.
Many who were around the Barton Moss protests against fracking a few years ago will note the new attitude of councillors who, at the time, completely ignored pleas to visit the protest site and to do something to help local residents who said they were being brutalised daily by the police. Campaigners even occupied the reception area of the Council's Civic Centre to draw attention to their plight (see previous Salford Star article – click here)
It later emerged via a `Memorandum of Understanding' obtained under the Freedom of Information Act that there was a high level of collusion between Salford Council, IGas, Greater Manchester Police, Peel Holdings and other organisations during the anti-fracking protests - sharing intelligence and communications, while having daily briefings (see previous Salford Star article – click here)
Meanwhile, Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, who stayed silent throughout the Barton Moss protests, now has the Environment brief at Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), and GM Mayor Andy Burnham has publicly expressed opposition to fracking, although he has no power to stop it (see here).
After Bury Council had passed its motion last year, Jenny Ross from Frack Free Greater Manchester told the Salford Star: "Bolton and now Bury Council have both taken steps to protect their local communities from fracking. After the violently policed Barton Moss protests and their refusal to debate fracking - even after a 3,000 strong petition was handed in asking them to oppose it - the spotlight is now on Salford Council to follow suit.
"New parts of the city are now vulnerable to fracking licenses in Walkden, Swinton, Pendlebury, Roe Green and Clifton" she added "It's time they recognised it is renewables not fracking that will bring jobs and prosperity to this city and stopped backing fracking ."
Next week, Salford Council is set to recognise renewables and 'express concern' about fracking - but it will have to go further than that to placate cynical campaigners and local residents who were at Barton Moss, as the Mayor, councillors and the whole Council stayed silent...
* INEOS is currently trying to get an indefinite injunction on 'persons unknown' - ie everyone - that prohibits protest tactics like slow walking in front of lorries on its sites. The case was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday and is set for a three day hearing later this year - see previous Salford Star article for full details - click here
Main photo by Steven Speed shows lock on in Salford Civic Centre reception