A Hexham man is leading a campaign to prevent Tynedale‘s rich mineral deposits from being exploited by high-tech mining interests.
Rather than digging for coal and lead though, the modern day miners want to use the controversial techniques of fracking and underground coal gasification to win natural gas from shale and coal deposits.
Fracking is the process of hydraulic fracturing of rock by injecting a mixture of sand, water and chemicals so that energy sources such as gas, petroleum and brine can be extracted.
And while there are currently no sites designated for such activities on the books of Northumberland County Council, campaigners want to be prepared should any applications come along.
Dr Jonathan Boniface, from Fellside, has become one of the leading lights in the newly-formed Keep Northumberland Frack Free group, which is to hold its first public meeting to discuss the threat of fracking and UCG in Hexham Community Centre on 27 June at 2pm.
Tynedale has been known over the centuries for its rich deposits of valuable minerals, from the lead, silver and zinc of the Allen Valleys, to the vast coalfields which underlie much of the district, from Haltwhistle and Halton Lea Gate to Prudhoe and Mickley.
Only a decade ago, Australian company Roc Oil found “gas saturated tight sands” in a £1m drilling exercise at Errington Red House, close to the Roman Wall near Bingfield.
The Green Party is set to field more than three times as many candidates in the North East as in 2010, in a further sign that the smaller parties could play a key role in the general election.
And the party has turned to an “crowdfunding” website where supporters, or anyone who want to help, are urged to contribute small sums of money to help pay the cost of deposits.
One candidate is even offering donors rewards such as a sketch or a personalised poem if they help to fund his campaign.
It follows the success of the Greens in winning support from one in 20 voters in the region in the European elections last year, placing them almost level with the Liberal Democrats.
The party had just ten candidates in the region in 2010.
But it expects to have candidates in 25 seats on May 7.
However, standing for election can be an expensive business – particularly for a party without funding from big businesses or trade unions.
To help raise the £500 deposit which every candidate needs, the Greens have turned to a website called crowdfunder.co.uk which allows anybody to contribute sums, typically of £5 or more, to a cause.
In return, donors will receive a reward which varies from candidate to candidate.
Michael Holt, who hopes to be the Green Party candidate for Hartlepool, is offering to draw a sketch for backers who donate £5, write a personalised poem for £10 or record a song, on the subject of the donor’s choosing, for £30.
Other candidates are offering more conventional rewards. Donors backing the campaign of prospective Tynemouth candidate Julia Erskine can receive a badge or a mug.
The fundraising has a serious purpose – to allow the Greens to take part in May’s General Election in a way that hasn’t happened before.
It comes amid speculation that the traditional three parties – Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats – could lose ground to parties such as UKIP, the Greens and, in Scotland, the SNP.
One opinion poll published this week found that Labour had 27 per cent of the vote in the North of England while Conservatives were on 22 per cent, UKIP on 14 per cent, Greens on seven percent and Lib Dems on four per cent.
The North East has not traditionally been the most fertile ground for the Greens, who have one MP, representing Brighton Pavilion.
Brighton and Hove Council is also the only council controlled by the Greens, as a minority administration. London, the south east and south west each have one Green MEP.
But the party believes it could pick up support in the North East and is campaigning on a series of local issues across the region. In Northumberland they are opposing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and they are also working with residents concerned about planned open cast mining at Druridge Bay.
Greens in Newcastle and Gateshead are campaigning to protect the green belt. Greens have also opposed the closure of the Jarrow NHS walk-in centre in South Tyneside.
Shirley Ford, North East organiser for the Greens and the party’s organiser in South Shields, said:
“The party has pledged to stand in at least 75% of constituencies and we are determined to exceed that in the North East. We really want to give everyone the chance to vote Green in the General Election. The way our membership and supporter numbers are rocketing, we are optimistic that we will be able to do that.”
“With local parties right across the region blossoming, we are confident we can raise all the deposits and funds for campaigning.
“And one key way we are doing this is by crowdfunding, with some local parties having already fully funded their candidates’ deposits. We rely on the commitment and dedication of our members and supporters to raise the money we need.”
What they stand for:
In line with the other parties, the Green Party has not yet published its General Election manifesto. The party says that its manifesto published last year for the European Elections provides a good guide to what it believes.
- Opposing austerity and instead creating jobs by investing in a low carbon economy
- Scrapping the welfare cap
- A new tax on bankers bonuses
- Stopping the “privatisation” of the National Health Service
- Bringing schools such as academies and free schools back under local authority control
- Bringing rail franchises back into public ownership
Scrapping the high speed rail line known as HS2
> The Green surge in the North East is interesting because formerly UKIP were claiming to be the alternative vote in the region for disillusioned Labour voters.
I suspect that the Greens are now becoming the alternative to UKIP being the alternative (if that makes sense). Certainly you’d like to hope that any ex-Labour or Lib Dems with principles would vote Green rather than UKIP and its pathetic policies.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 14 Feb 2015