'Don't go fracking my heart' - Environmental activists serenade Barclays and HSBC in Letchworth to protest against investments

PUBLISHED: 15:21 06 February 2017 | UPDATED: 15:33 06 February 2017

The protesters outside Letchworth HSBC on Saturday.

The protesters outside Letchworth HSBC on Saturday.

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Anti-fracking activists serenaded banks in Letchworth on Saturday in a Valentine's-themed attempt to have them dump fossil fuel investments for renewable energy.

The protesters outside Letchworth Barclays on Saturday.The protesters outside Letchworth Barclays on Saturday.

The 15 protesters picketed at the town’s Barclays and HSBC branches, brandishing banners, heart-shaped balloons and and a giant Valentine’s card as they accused the banks of ‘cheating on the planet’ and ‘fracking our hearts’ through their investments.

Fracking, a process by which shale gas is extracted by injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure, is supported and funded by Barclays – but critics say it harms the environment and can contaminate ground water.

And organiser Rosemary Bland, 41, called the relationship between Barclays and energy company Third Energy – which last year received the first UK licence for fracking since 2011 – an ‘unholy matrimony’.

She said: “We love our countryside, climate, air and water but Barclays is fracking our hearts.

“There is no such thing as safe fracking – from the risks to water supply and chemical exposure to the ever-increasing dangers of climate chaos, it is a backwards-looking approach.

“What we need is investors to get together with clean, safe, renewable energy for a better future together, in an everlasting partnership.

“Despite industry claims, fracking is not safe and it is not needed.”

The giant Valentine’s card told Barclays: “Dump dirty old frackers and hook up with undying renewable energy – then we’ll stay. Love, your customers.”

The Letchworth anti-fracking protesters on Saturday.The Letchworth anti-fracking protesters on Saturday.

Smaller messages written on hearts attached to the card included ‘Water is life’ and ‘Don’t go fracking my heart’.

HSBC was also targeted over its investments in fracking and pipelines, with activists vowing to return ‘for as long as it takes for both HSBC and Barclays to invest in better stuff’.

Rosemary said that anyone who agrees with their stand could comment on the banks’ social media pages, email them or let the branches know, and consider closing any accounts held with them.

The protest comes after the Irish parliament last week voted for the republic to fully divest public funds from fossil fuels, a world first.

The protesters outside Letchworth Barclays on Saturday.The protesters outside Letchworth Barclays on Saturday.

A private equity arm of Barclays called Global Natural Resource Investments owns 97 per cent of Third Energy.

North Yorkshire County Council’s planning committee approved Third’s application to frack for gas at Kirby Misperton, near Ryedale, in May last year – with the High Court ruling against a legal challenge by campaigners in December.

Responding to Saturday’s protest, a Barclays spokeswoman said: “Following the sale of Barclays Natural Resources Investments to its former management, the day-to-day interaction with Third Energy is now undertaken by Global Natural Resources Investments. Third Energy is a British business with a history of investment and good corporate citizenship in North Yorkshire, and this is set to continue into the future.

“Citizenship at Barclays is about considering the impact of our decisions on society. This is a key element of our ‘shared growth ambition’, which focuses on driving commercial benefit for our shareholders and creating the conditions for success in the societies in which we operate.

The protesters' Valentine's card, urging Barclays to 'hook up with undying renewable energy'.The protesters' Valentine's card, urging Barclays to 'hook up with undying renewable energy'.

“By working with GNRI management, we have ensured that Third Energy, as they go through the planning process, has plans that are compatible with Barclays’ purpose and values, and that the company is addressing the key concerns that have been raised.

“Any extraction activity is, of course, subject to the full planning process, including environmental assessment and public consultation. We take the concerns of local communities and other groups seriously and will continue to monitor activities to ensure that potential environmental and community impacts are minimised.”

An HSBC spokeswoman said: “HSBC’s policies prohibit the financing of operations that are illegal, damage high-conservation-value forest or landscaping, or violate the rights of workers and local people.

“HSBC does not knowingly provide financial services which directly support palm oil companies which do not comply with our policy. We are not aware of any current instances where customers are alleged to be operating outside our policy and where we have not taken, or are not taking, appropriate action.”

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