Legal battle starts over fracking protest injunction bid

A women's protest at the Preston New Road fracking site
A women's protest at the Preston New Road fracking site

The battle line over fracking moves from the Fylde to Manchester today as shale drilling firm Cuadrilla aims to cut protests at its sites.

The Bamber Bridge based company is seeking an injunction to stop trespass on the drill site at Preston New Road, stop anyone obstructing the site entrance, lock-ons, slow walking in front of trucks and blockading suppliers.

But community groups have said they will fight the injunction which is an extension to an existing ruling banning trespass on the fields.

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, said: “Whilst we fully respect the right to peaceful and legal protest, unfortunately over the last 18 months we have seen an extraordinarily high level of unlawful protest activity.

“This has been directed at and impacted not just our workers but also our suppliers and other law abiding citizens using the main road passing our site for their normal daily activities.
“Such unlawful conduct cannot be permitted to continue, and we hope that if we can secure this injunction it will deter this unlawful behaviour which is reckless and continues to cost local taxpayers millions of pounds.”

Communities opposed to fracking from across the North were due to gather outside the Civil Justice Centre in Manchester from 9.30am for a mass protest.

The move to extend the existting injunction outside the Preston New Road site, would have “a very serious chilling effect on peaceful lawful opposition”, Friends of the Earth today warned.

Friends of the Earth north west campaigner Helen Rimmer said: “An injunction would have a very serious chilling effect on peaceful lawful opposition to fracking. This is a desperate move from an industry struggling to get off the ground.

“Local people have already had their democratic decision to reject fracking overturned by Westminster, and now their democratic right to protest is under threat as well.

“Fracking is highly unpopular, bad for our environment and bad for our climate – people must be allowed to take part in legitimate activities to oppose it.”

A spokesman from Frack Free Lancashire said: “We are standing together today outside the High Court hearing in Manchester to show that our peaceful protest will continue against this dreadful industry that has forced its way undemocratically into our community.

“Our councils said no to this application, with a clear and knowledgeable understanding of the local area, environment, community and evidence of the devastating risk that fracking would bring.

“Central government intervened on behalf of their fracking friends, Cuadrilla, and overruled democracy.”