Protesters from all over the country were today setting up camp in a field on the Fylde ahead of a week of action against fracking.
They are joining locally-based protesters who have been camping in the field near the World of Water site off the A583 Preston New Road near Westby.
The local group of mainly women from Frack Free Lancashire occupied the dairy farm field last Thursday with around 20 tents to oppose energy company Cuadrilla Resources plans to drill test wells and frack for gas near the field.
Now up to 1,000 protesters from various organisations are expected to arrive to set up a Reclaim the Power camp in the same field.
The police are monitoring the situation and local officials are concerned the protest could lead to scenes similar to the protests which happened at Reclaim the Power last year in Balcombe, Sussex.
A police spokesman said: “In line with our duty to facilitate peaceful protest, we will continue to work with protesters and local residents with the aim of ensuring the event is safe and peaceful.
“Officers are monitoring the situation and will ensure the police response is appropriate and proportionate.”
One of the organisers Ashley Grey from No Dash For Gas said the group was pleased to have been invited by local protest groups to stage their annual protest in Blackpool.
He said: “The women who have already occupied the field are doing a great job. They and many of the other local protest groups we have been in touch with are concerned about fracking and its effects on their environment, we are too, but we are also about other issues and there are many groups represented here from the Fuel Poverty Action Group, Greater London Pensioners Association to UK Uncut.
“Fracking and fossil fuels are not only more expensive than renewable power they are dirty and can damage the environment.
“We understand the apprehension that some people have expressed about us coming here but we will be working with the local groups to make sure we don’t do anything to damage their campaigns and don’t overstep any boundaries.”
He said the protesters would be setting out the field for the weekend carefully and staging workshops to educate visitors about various issues.
He confirmed that a march would be taking place at an as yet undisclosed location around Blackpool and that a day of action would take place on Monday when their camp is due to break up.
He added the group understood people’s concerns over their presence on the land but claimed they were not trespassing as they were acting within the law.
He said: “The camp that was already here has served a Section Six notice on the site, meaning they were legally occupying it.
“It is a legal method of doing it and it does mean we are not technically trespassing.”
A Section Six notice is a way squatters have previously asserted their rights, making it illegal in some cases for anyone, including the police, to use force to evict them.
Cuadrilla Energy, the company which wants to frack on the Fylde, claimed the landowner was instructing lawyers over the situation, adding that the protest was an “illegal occupation”.
But Mr Grey said: “We are aware of that issue but we believe this issue is so serious that it warrants this action.
“We believe that the Government’s support of the fracking industry has no social licence or legitimacy.”
Tina Rothery from Residents Action on Fylde Fracking said their own camp, which they have called Nannagate, would continue in the field after the other protesters had gone.
“We just want Cuadrilla and the County Council with who Cuadrilla have lodged planning applications to frack for gas will see that there is a growing opposition to fracking. We want this to be the last place in Britain that has to undergo this threat. Having Reclaim the Power here is a great opportunity for us to learn and to self-empower the local community.”
“If a group of grannies can occupy a field Cuadrilla want build an access road for a test drill then what do they think will happen when they try to actually carry out fracking?”
Friends Oliver Norton and Michael Driffield, from Leeds, are attending their first fracking protest.
Mr Norton, 24, runs his own IT company, Cloud Services.
He said: “Fracking’s not right and it needs to stop. We’ve got to make a stand at some point. I see it as a global issue and something we need to group together for as a country.”
Mr Driffield, 24, added: “I wanted to show my face and my support to the people that need it.
“Fracking doesn’t do any good for the land and it’s not good for the water. It’s stressful for a lot of people who live here and I wouldn’t want it in my back garden.”
Martin McGonigan, 53, from Hebden Bridge, was among a car load of arrivals from Yorkshire.
Calling on people from the Fylde coast to join the camp, he said: “It’s going to be a tourist black spot.
“Are people bothered in millionaire’s row in Singleton or Poulton about their property prices going down? Because that’s what will happen.
“It will put a blight on this area for decades and longer.”
Rob Franks, 39, from London, said: “This is going to affect the future of our children and we need to do something about it.
“It’s good to see that there’s a strong local group already.
“There has been encouraging local support and signs welcoming people.
“It’s a good start for the site take and I’m looking forward to working with people at the weekend.”
Susan Marshall and her 12-year-old son Morgan, from Ambleside Road, St Annes, have been involved with the camp since it was set up last Thursday.
Welcoming the new arrivals, Susan said: “It’s quite exciting in a way.
“You feel a bit vulnerable sometimes when you think ‘is it going to make any difference’ and then there are people willing to travel from one end of the country to the other to show support.”
Morgan added: “I’ve had a chat with some of them and they’re great.”
Cuadrilla, which is seeking planning permission to drill, hydraulically fracture and test the flow of gas on two sites at Roseacre Wood, Inskip, and on the farmland off Preston New Road said the protest was not
Councillors at Lancashire County Council are due to make a decision on both applications by November, with drilling likely to start early next year if approved then and fracking to follow several months later.
A spokesman for Cuadrilla said: “We believe there is absolutely no requirement and little local support for the protest and the illegal occupation of land being farmed by a local farmer, disrupting his business and family in the process.
“We understand the landowner is in the process of instructing lawyers to commence legal proceedings to recover possession of his land.
“Lancashire County Council’s consultation process is ongoing concerning our two planning applications for shale gas exploration.
“This is a thorough, transparent and democratic process which gives people ample opportunity to make their views known to the decision makers in the county council.
“There is no democratic mandate for this kind of illegal protest nor for the associated threatened “direct action” against local businesses.”
The owner of the land was not available to comment on the protest yesterday.