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Teaching assistant spends half-term fighting against fracking


6:01am 15th February 2016

An inquiry into why fracking applications were refused in Lancashire will enter its second week on Tuesday.

Teaching assistant come-anti-fracking-campaigner, Barbara Richardson, is gearing up to spend her half-term week sitting in on the hearing.

Cuadrilla have spent the first week presenting detailed evidence as to why they believe exploratory drilling for shale gas should have been approved in the summer - later this week, Lancashire County Council will argue their case for refusal.

Barbara says she's pleased by the progress thus far:

"I think it's gone very well up to now. Cuadrilla's experts have presented their evidence in quite a lot of detail but I feel quite happy with the legal representation from Lancashire County Council and all of the opposing groups. They've questioned the detailed evidence and raised lots of issues with the evidence that's been presented by Cuadrilla. I feel fairly confident that we've got some good arguments to put forward.

Speaking about the level of protestors outside of the Bloomfield Road hearing, Barbara says the anti-fracking groups don't plan to maintain a constant presence:

"The first day it was very good. We had protestors from both sides of the argument; it was very peaceful with just a bit of jeering, as you can expect. We made a conscious decision just to have a visible presence on the first day because this inquiry is more about business and planning matters so we didn't want to have a continuing presence outside.

The hearing runs weekly from Tuesdays to Fridays and is expected to last five weeks in total. Barbara plans to be there for as much of it as she can:

"Next week is an important week for Roseacre. Cuadrilla's experts will continue to present evidence on landscape and then move on to traffic - which for Roseacre is the important one. In Roseacre we have a serious issue about the impact fracking could have on traffic.

"Then, on Wednesday evening, there's a chance for the public to go along and have a five-minute chance to speak. That's from 6.30pm-9.30pm so hopefully members of the public will go along to give their two pence worth.

"Towards the end of next week, Lancashire County Council will start to present their evidence which obviously opposes the plans."

A teaching assistant by day, Barbara says it's been tiring juggling work and attending the inquiry but won't be taking a break during half term:

"I'm shattered because I work in the mornings, I'm trying to get all the emails out and keep the Facebook pages updated. I go straight from work to the inquiry which has been going on until about 5.30pm.

"I'm going to be spending all of my half term week at the inquiry. I have to be there, I have to listen to the evidence from both sides and represent our community.

"I resent having to do that in a way because I feel like we presented such a good case the first time round. Lancashire County Council aren't idiots - they weighed all the evidence up from both sides.

"You do it because you believe that what you're doing is right - it's so important that we present that evidence to the inspector. We're fighting for our community and for all the communities in Lancashire."

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