A Fylde hotelier appears to have done a u-turn since telling a Public Inquiry he would reconsider further investment in the area should fracking be approved.
In 2016, at the public inquiry into Cuadrilla's plans as part of its appeal against the refusal of planning permission for exploratory fracking in Lancashire, the boss of Ribby Hall Holiday Village appeared and spoke out against the proposals.
He told the Planning Inspector that his business had invested £35m into the area over the last 25 years and that he planned to continue this investment.
But he said this would be reconsidered if fracking went ahead.
Ribby Hall Holiday Village employs over 600 people directly and indirectly, and so the implicit threat was: jobs and investment would be at risk if the plans were given the green light.
He asked the Planning Inspector:
“How would fracking appeal to our guests and visitors to our area. How can fracking and tourism work hand in hand.
“We don’t believe fracking will be beneficial to offering our guests a five star experience”
That was in February. In October 2016, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Sajid Javid MP, approved Cuadrilla's plans on appeal and construction started at its Preston New Road site - around just two-and-a-half miles away from Ribby Hall Holiday Village.
So you might be surprised to learn that in June of 2017, Mr Harrison's business submitted a planning application to Fylde Borough Council to convert a former equestrian facility near the existing Ribby Hall Holiday Village into an additional holiday site. It was for:
OUTLINE (ACCESS, LAYOUT AND LANDSCAPING APPLIED FOR) APPLICATION FOR THE DEMOLITION OF EXISTING BUILDINGS AND ERECTION OF 40 NO TIMBER HOLIDAY LODGES SURROUNDING A NEW LEISURE LAKE WITH ASSOCIATED LEISURE FACILITIES, AND A 50 VEHICLE CAR PARK TO ACCOMMODATE NEW AND EXISTING STAFF MEMBERS.
The Transport Statement that accompanied the application predicted that the development would give rise to over 200 two-way vehicle journeys a day, 7 days a week, on average. That's on top of the existing vehicle journeys created by the current Ribby Hall Holiday Village site.
Traffic, you will recall, was one of the reasons County Councillors gave for refusing Cuadrilla permission in the first place...
This chronology of comments and events definitely creates the impression that Mr Harrison's remarks about reconsidering further investment were made just to try and sway the Planning Inspector. If he genuinely doesn't think fracking in the area will appeal to his customers, why would he be prepared to risk his money building an extension once Cuadrilla had not only had its plans approved but after work had actually started? Surely if he really was worried about a negative impact on tourism now that Cuadrilla is underway, speculatively stumping up lots of cash like this would be the last thing on his mind?
We have another interesting revelation about Mr Harrison. According to publicly available documents lodged with the Fylde elections officer and Electoral Commission, he was the biggest and most prolific financial donor to the 2015 Parliamentary candidacy of Mike Hill from St Annes. And by quite a significant margin. During the so-called "short campaign" Ribby Hall Holiday Village donated £2,773. In the "long campaign" it was a further £15,982,47 - bringing the total to £18,755.47. You'll recall that Mike Hill ran on an exclusively anti-fracking ticket...make of that what you will.