Campaigners win battle over fracking report issue

Campaigners: An anti-fracking march in Lytham
Campaigners: An anti-fracking march in Lytham

A redacted Government report on shale gas exploration must be released in full after campaigners won a battle for it to be produced.

The UK’s transparency watchdog, the Information Commissioner Officer, ruled the full version of a heavily redacted report into fracking by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) must be released.

The very fact they (the Government) so heavily redacted it and refused to release it says there is something to hide

The decision, taken on June 8, was made public yesterday, just a week before Lancashire County Council is due to give its verdict on two planning applications by energy firm Cuadrilla to frack at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood on the Fylde coast.

The watchdog ruled DEFRA has upto 35 days to release the information, but today anti-fracking campaigners called for the report be released earlier to allow councillors to fully assess its contents.

Bob Dennett, of Residents Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF) said: “We have been campaigning for this report to be released for quite some time.

“The very fact they (the Government) so heavily redacted it and refused to release it says there is something to hide.

“It must be released for the councillors to see.”

Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner Daisy Sands added: “The government’s stubborn refusal to publish this report in full is totally indefensible.

“By cherry-picking which evidence is released, ministers are misleading both the public and local councillors as to the real impacts of fracking. Lancashire authorities are about to make a decision that will have huge repercussions for the life of their communities.

“They should have access to all the evidence, not just the sanitised digest produced by the government.

“We urge ministers to disclose the whole report before next week’s decision, letting residents and their councillors make up their own minds about fracking.”

DEFRA published a version of the report, called Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts, last year after coming under pressure from campaigners. But the document released to the public had 63 parts of text missing.

A spokesman for Cuadrilla said: “We have not seen a full version of the DEFRA report and therefore cannot possible comment on its contents until it is made publicly available.”