Evictions boss speaks out after anger over fracking camp demolition
A Fylde coast anti-fracking group has come to the support of environmentalists evicted from a make-shift camp.
The Frack Free Lancashire group has strongly condemned the dawn eviction that occurred at New Hope Camp a mile away from Cuadrilla's drill site on Tuesday.
They say that specialist firm Able Enforcements undertook an "aggressive eviction at the camp, giving residents no warning nor time to gather their belongings in a safe or respectful manner".
The group said camp residents' pet cats, were terrified by the private security firm’s dogs, and the residents were not allowed to try to retrieve them for over five hours.
The group added that the environmentalists were dragged from their sleeping spaces "in the dark and zero temperatures, and were not allowed to return, prohibited by police and bailiffs".
They said their homes and personal belongings were bulldozed, and expensive solar panels and a wind turbine were damaged.
A spokesman for Frack Free Lancashire said: "Able Enforcements suggested they were able to do this under 'Common Law rights to remove trespassers from private land,' however, no prior notification from the landowner was given to the camp – either written or verbal. Some 49 Lancashire Police Officers were counted at one stage, with several of them witnessed to be laughing at the eviction process.
Able Enforcements also published a derogatory and untrue statement: 'Fortunately, we’ve met most of these individuals before…so we knew what to expect in terms of aggression, abuse and violence.'
The spokesman said: "We wholly reject this defamatory statement and know the camp residents to be peaceful and a welcome part of our community. The camp was been established with the landowner’s permission and community support almost three years ago.
"They have in, turn, supported the local residents in their battle against failed fracking company, Cuadrilla. They are part of the community.
"We will stand together with our friends, who have purposely been made homeless following this inhumane eviction process and will work together as a community to assist however we can."
But Steve Wood from Able Enforcements said that the company had carried out many similar actions without injury or any court action. He said many landlords did not realise that they did not have to go to court to get squatters or protesters removed.
He said the action had to be carried out with an element of surprise to avoid protesters locking themselves in place.
He said: "We have been in business for 25 years and for the past eight years have had Specialist Group International (specialists in removing protesters from trees). We are very experienced. The operation was robust and carried out in a firm but fair way."
He said efforts were made to retrieve people's belongings from the shelters and once everyone was out, individuals were escorted back in to get their stuff. However, the campaigners had wanted to go back is as a group to get the solar panels and that could not be allowed.
He said: "We had everyone off site by 9.30am. From 10am to 3pm we were allowing people back in ones and twos to collect personal effects. They wanted a whole team to go back to get the solar panels, but we could not allow that and the structures themselves were unsafe.
"When we were told there were cats on site by one of the people there, Fargo, we allowed him to go back to collect the, One of our three teams put down food for the cats. They had been frightened when the operation began by having strangers coming in. But we got them all back.
"The campaigners are claiming they were not asked to leave and they had permission from the landlord. If that was the case why did he spend weeks with us planning this operation and spending a fortune getting us in."