Strong presence essential insist fracking site police chief

Police at the Preston New Road site
Police at the Preston New Road site
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The officer in charge of policing anti-fracking protests in Fylde has defended the number of police deployed.

Lancashire Police has up to 100 officers deployed at the drilling site in Preston New Road every day, prompting criticism from some quarters of the resources being given over to the operation.

Supt Richard Robertshaw admits the numbers required are a drain on resources.

But he says recent events show the need for such strength.

He said: “On a daily basis there are approximately 100 officers directly involved in the policing of the fracking protest.

“I will be the first to admit that this is a significant drain on scarce police resources and, in an ideal world, we would clearly have significantly fewer officers on site.

“However, as recent protest at the site, during which several campaigners ‘locked on’ across both carriageways of the A583, blocking the road for several hours, show there are times when it is absolutely essential to have the number of officers at the site that are currently allocated to the operation.

“Public safety is always our main priority and having this number of officers available is essential for ensuring all parties remain safe.”

insisted police had a duty not only to protect protesters at the site but to ensure energy firm Cuardrilla could keep materials moving.

He said: “What Cuadrilla are doing is legal and we have an obligation to ensure they can go about their lawful business. However we have an equal duty to facilitate peaceful protest and our approach is always to encourage people to move voluntarily when deliveries are being made to site.”

Supt Robertshaw said force was only used as a last resort.

He said: “There will be occasions when our requests are ignored. At this point, it may be entirely appropriate for police officers to use the minimum force necessary to get people to move to allow Cuadrilla to make lawful deliveries to the site.”