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Frack sign farmer says no to order

Anti-fracking signs have been erected by John Tootill on the A583 between Blackpool and Kirkham. Pictured is John with neighbour Diane Westgarth.

Anti-fracking signs have been erected by John Tootill on the A583 between Blackpool and Kirkham. Pictured is John with neighbour Diane Westgarth.

“I would sooner be prosecuted than have my children poisoned.”

That is the response of a farmer threatened with legal action after erecting signs demonstrating opposition to fracking.

Fylde Council has served John Tootill with an enforcement notice to remove the signs, on the A583 Preston New Road between Blackpool and Kirkham, claiming he was not given permission to put them up.

But Mr Tootill, owner of nearby Maple Farm Nurseries, says he has no intention of obeying the authority’s wishes.

The father of two school age children said: “The long and short of it is they’re saying unless I remove them within a certain time they’re going to take me to court.

“My reply to that is I would sooner be prosecuted than have my children poisoned, that’s what it comes down to.

“It’s a fundamental principle of life that you’ve got to protect what’s dear to you.”

Mr Tootill, 60, spent hundreds of pounds putting the signs up, less than half a mile from where energy company Cuadrilla plans to drill test wells to see if it would be viable to carry out full scale hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting water and chemicals at high pressure into shale rock deep beneath the surface to release gas.

Fylde Council has told Mr Tootill he must either take the signs down or apply retrospectively for advertising consent.

But he added: “I always understood an advertisement was to promote one’s business to sell one’s goods.

“These signs are a replacement of existing signs which were promoting the nursery, but I’ve seen it more important to raise awareness than to have the signs promoting my businesses.

“(Fylde Council) seem quite determined to take action on this.”

The authority wrote to Mr Tootill about the matter on July 15, and he was given 21 days to respond with information about the signs from that date.

A spokesman for Fylde Council said: “This is nothing to do with the signs being about fracking.

“The law requires that all advertising hoardings have advertising consent.

“There isn’t for that site and therefore they will have to be removed.

“If he doesn’t remove them we will take him to the magistrates’ court where he could be fined £2,500 per sign.”

 

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