The energy company which wants to drill for shale gas on the Fylde coast will learn today if a legal bid to prevent a repeat of the Reclaim the Power protest camps has been successful.
Cuadrilla, which was the target of anti-fracking protests earlier this month, was today hoping for a High Court judge in Manchester to make an order banning campaigners from occupying land on and around the two sites where it hopes to drill – in Little Plumpton and Roseacre.
The company has joined forces with 10 farmers and landowners to start the legal action, which follows more than three weeks of protesters setting up camp on a field off Preston New Road.
But campaigners, who have always maintained the occupation of the farmland was legal, accused Cuadrilla of “dirty tricks” that would restrict their right to protest.
At its peak, hundreds of campaigners from around the country occupied the camp, and the last of the tents were due to be removed last night.
Protesters claim fracking – the process of extracting shale gas by firing water and chemicals deep underground – will damage the environment and cause pollution.
A joint statement from Roseacre Awareness Group and Preston New Road Action Group questioned claims made by Cuadrilla and the National Farmers’ Union that the camp had damaged the farmer’s business by preventing access to the field.
They wrote: “Our lives have been severely disrupted since February by having to try and fight these plans which will in essence destroy our communities, have a severe impact on our health and well being and damage to our wonderful
“So to quote the distress of this farmer over a three-week period pales into insignificance compared with the constant stress, worry and helplessness felt by locals, who do not have a hefty cheque to look forward to, as these farmers do.
“Public opposition is mounting as more people become informed about what fracking really entails and the impact it will have on our wonderful county. So far Lancashire County Council has received more than 14,000 objections to Cuadrilla’s plans. Surely public opinion should count for something.”
Cuadrilla, which plans to use a controversial technique known as hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – to drill for shale gas on land off Preston New Road and at Roseacre Wood, said the legal action would prevent “future trespass” around the sites.
The company’s chief executive Francis Egan said: “This illegal occupation of farmland, damaging a local farmer’s business and causing stress to his family, should not be tolerated.”