ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners gathered outside Barclays on Saturday in opposition to the bank’s investment in a fracking firm.

In an attempt to stop Barclays banking on fracking, protesters handed out leaflets to members of the public outside the bank’s Regent Street branch.

The demonstration aimed to raise awareness of Barclays’ 97 per cent stake in Third Energy, the company that has recently been given a licence to frack in Ryedale in North Yorkshire.

Organiser and political activist Ben Bell said: “So far we have had a mixed reception because there are some people who don’t know what fracking is, or what the procedure involves.

“It is proven to be poisonous and causes earthquakes and Barclays shouldn’t be able to get away with backing it.

“Who wants to have their water supply poisoned and their countryside ruined?”

The protest comes just days after a government survey revealed that public support for fracking, the controversial procedure which sees shale gas extracted from beneath the surface of the earth, is at an all-time low.

Just 17 per cent of people nationwide back fracking, compared with a third who oppose it, and just under half who have no opinion.

Chris Noyce, of the Swindon Green Party, said: “I am here today because I think it is really important to make people aware that Barclays is funding fracking, and I think a lot of people will take exception to that.

“I am worried about fracking for a number of reasons: it is a fossil fuel that is not sustainable in the long term.

“Also, it tends to have an adverse effect on local communities.”

Asked how members of the public have reacted to the protest, Chris said: “A lot of people have shown a keen interest and several have said they are very surprised and will try to do something about it.”

Shopper Martin Cross, 27, who accepted a leaflet from one of the activists, said: “I actually bank with Barclays. I had no idea they were involved in fracking.

“I don’t really know enough about it to make a proper judgement, but I don’t see how it can help the environment – and that should be our main concern.”

Defending the bank, a spokesman for Barclays said: “Through Global Natural Resources Investments, Barclays has a majority stake in Third Energy, a British business with a history of investment and good corporate citizenship in North Yorkshire.

“Third Energy has been drilling, developing and producing gas in the region for over 20 years, with an excellent environmental and safety record.

“We are conscious of the concerns of local communities and other groups over potential environmental and community impacts, which we take seriously and will continue to monitor.

“We have worked closely with Third Energy to ensure their plans are compatible with our values.”

To follow the debate, use the Twitter hashtag #StopBarclaysFracking.