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Lancashire County Councillors have said no to fracking on the Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton near Blackpool, having previously refused permission at the more difficult to access Roseacre Wood site. I’m an ex pat Lancastrian, born in Blackpool Victoria Hospital and raised in Poulton-le -Fylde. I spent most of my business career with the mighty CEGB, and then with National Grid, where I learnt to respect the ability and integrity of most engineers.

I’ve recently published a novel “Where’s Sailor Jack” substantially set in the fictional village of St Chad’s, a thinly disguised Poulton. The principal character, Bob, was born there and returns in later life after a career as a nuclear engineer who reached the top. He is a fair-minded man, prepared to consider all alternatives, while being as antagonistic to wind power as most power engineers are. He recognises the high cost of nuclear and also the attendant proliferation issues. He concedes the small chance of an operational balls-up but believes engineers will be good enough to handle that. Overall though, at this stage he is cautious towards nuclear. He is happy with tidal power being explored.

The antagonism to wind power in power engineers is not just because the projects are not big and sexy. It’s because the generation capacity has to be planned for the winter peak. The wind often isn’t blowing on the coldest days. What that means is that much of the wind generating capacity has to be backed up by other forms of generation, meaning that the capital required has to be found twice. Wind power is also very expensive even without that additional cost. There is some small reduction in the amount of carbon put up in the atmosphere, but the effect of replacing coal by fracked gas would, per pound spent, be greater.

Although more a village boy, Bob mourns the passing of proud, industrial Lancashire. He thinks that jobs are more important than rights, and that the better jobs are in engineering, not call centres. It’s hard for the Lancashire Councillors with the worries they have over fracking and the power of the pressure groups. I do believe that the engineers will manage to frack without polluting water or causing a major earthquake. Bob, a proper engineer, would not give then carte blanche but he would have a go. As he says, “Anyway, we’ve found all this shale gas under St Chad’s, the epicentre of the universe and of an earthquake after the last fracking trial. It’s not that green but it’s Lancastrian. Let’s hope they can extract the bloody stuff without knocking St Chad’s Church and Blackpool Tower over.”

And my last word. Let’s make sure too that we make not only plenty of jobs for Lankies but plenty of dosh too, and not let it all get creamed off by the landowners or the shareholders.


John Uttley, 69, was born in Lancashire although he now lives just outside London. Where’s Sailor Jack is his first novel. Not fancying a memoir, or his family’s story, John instead recorded his Lancastrian sense of humour as well as documenting a tumultuous, exciting period of British history. History John just happened to live through.

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