Campaigners vow to fight on after Cuadrilla wins interim injunction to curb protests
Shale gas supporters have claimed victory in a legal battle to ban protests.
Gas exploration firm Cuadrilla and a group of local farmers have been granted an interim injunction covering the shale gas exploration operations at Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton.
It means that anti-frackng protesters locking-on at the site entrance or at suppliers premises, or slow-walking in front of trucks, could be in contempt of court and face more serious penalties including jail.
But judge Mark Pelling QC sitting in the High Court in Manchester said the court will reconvene on July 10 in order to consider the matter further and to hear arguments from four named defendants who raised objections at the hearing this week.
Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, said: “We are pleased the High Court has seen fit to grant this interim injunction which provides further reassurance to our employees, contractors, and suppliers and the general public using the Preston New Road that they can go about their lawful business without intimidation and illegal unlawful blockades from activists.
"This injunction does not restrict lawful and peaceful protest but is an important deterrence against unlawful protest which we have witnessed to an the extraordinarily degree high level of unlawful protest activity we have seen at Preston New Road and not about restricting lawful and peaceful protest.”
A Lancashire For Shale spokesman said: "This interim injunction is good news, signalling to onlooking Lancastrian businesses that they can now step forward confidently and take on contracts without fear of being targeted by activists.
"We want to see opportunities for local businesses maximised through the creation of a thriving supply chain, building further on the nearly Â£9m already spent with county firms. The additional protections contained in this new injunction will help to make that happen."
But campaigners say the interim court injunction won by Cuadrilla will not prevent the fight against fracking and it will be challenged in a substantive hearing is due to start on July 10 where four named defendants will contest the injunction.
One of the four, Fylde campaigner Bob Dennett, said even if it wins in July Cuadrilla will not stop the campaign.
He said the move was probably sparked by fears of another month of protests at the site this summer, similar to the major campaign last July which saw hundreds of people at the Little Plumpton site on several occaisions, with a series of lock-on protests and arrests.
He said: “We will have the chance to properly challenge what Cuadrilla has put forward as evidence.
"The industry is riding rough-shod over people’s legitimate rights to protest and the democratic decisions made locally to refuse fracking.In any case we will continue to oppose this and will find a way to stop it by lawful means.”
A spokesman fro Frack Free Lancashire said: "We were very disappointed that Cuadrilla's application for an injunction has now been granted. We consider this to be a disproportionate measure which will make peaceful and lawful protest more difficult.
"It should be remembered that Cuadrilla's development at Preston New Road was rejected at every level of local government and that it therefore has no social licence.
"We believe that there has already been a failure of local democracy and that Cuadrilla have ridden roughshod over the clearly expressed objections of local communities. This amounts to corporate bullying and we hope that the injunction will not be extended when it is reviewed on 10th July."