Regional newspapers in the North East have voiced their anger over comments from a peer that fracking should take place there as the region was “desolate”.
Poster fronts and eye-catching splashes have been produced to disprove Lord Howell’s comments that the region had swathes of “uninhabited and desolate” areas which would be ideal for mining shale gas, rather than disturb the countryside elsewhere.
But newspapers in the area have voiced their indignation.
The Northern Echo’s front page, which features a picture of the Northumberland Coast alongside the headline “Fracked off”, has been re-Tweeted hundreds of times on Twitter and shown on both Sky News and Newsnight as part of the debate over the comments.
Editor Peter Barron said the response to the splash had been “extraordinary.”
“Lord Howell of Guildford was clearly talking nonsense with his perception that the North-East is desolate and it was our job to respond with attitude,” he said.
“I was tempted by a ruder headline but settled for “Fracked off” which seemed to sum up the way the region felt about Lord Howell’s ignorance.
“We had countless beautiful images to choose from but the Northumberland coast is a favourite destination for holidaymakers and Bamburgh Castle is iconic.”
He also blogged about his own feelings on the matter, adding: “He was, of course, talking out of his lordly backside. Anyone who has ever visited the North-East knows that it is a region of glorious natural beauty.”
The Journal in Newcastle, meanwhile, opted for a montage of images on the front page illustrating the region’s idyllic countryside, accompanied by a picture of Chancellor George Osborne and a headline which pointedly asked: “What is your father-in-law talking about, George?”
Journal editor Brian Aitken said he had wanted to reflect the anger felt by people in the region about the comments.
“The idea for the front page started forming as soon as I heard what Lord Howell said. Yes, there are large parts of the North East where few people live but to describe them as desolate was ignorant in the extreme,” he said.
“This is a region that successfully marketed itself as ‘Passionate People Passionate Places’ and I knew that Lord Howell’s comments would see those passions rising.
“We could have used images of the Angel of the North, Durham Cathedral of the Sage Gateshead but instead went for a montage of pictures of the Kielder reservoir, Bamburgh Castle, Hadrian’s Wall and Alnmouth where the population density is at the opposite end of the scale to their beauty”
Lord Howell had spoken in the House of Lords about the controversial issue of fracking, which is short for hydraulic fracturing to excavate gas.
He said: “There are obviously, in beautiful rural areas, worries not just about the drilling and the fracking, which I think are exaggerated – but about the trucks, the delivery and the roads and the disturbance. And those are quite justified worries.
“There are large uninhabited and desolate areas, certainly up in the northeast, where there’s plenty of room for fracking well away from anyone’s residence where it can be conducted without any kind of threat to the rural environment.”