Pay and display for fracking protest

A man being prosecuted by Fylde council for his anti-fracking protest has taken his fight to the authority's front door.

Wednesday, 13th April 2016, 6:00 am
The van parked outside St Annes Town Hall

John Tootill from Westby is due to face Blackpool magistrates next month over signs placed on his land on Preston New Road in Westby.

The arborist is facing 26 charges of displaying unauthorised advertisements on land at Maple Farm Nurseries.

But he’s not backing down – and on Saturday he took his protest to Fylde Council’s headquarters at St Annes Town Hall.

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Mr Tootill paid and displayed to legally park his works van outside the Town Hall, displaying more anti-fracking slogans.

“I thought it was appropriate to park there as the local authority is prosecuting me for putting up signs expressing my concerns and fears about fracking,” he said.

“I suppose you could say we’ve given them a chance to see up close what our message is.”

Mr Tootill, of North West Tree Services, believes it is his ‘moral obligation’ to keep up the battle against drilling firm Cuadrilla, which wants to hydraulically fracture Bowland shale, initially at two sites on the Fylde coast.

The firm says the practice – firing water and chemicals at high pressure at rock deep underground to release gas – can be done safely under the UK’s safety regulations..

But protesters have raised health and environmental concerns over the controversial process.

Mr Tootill said: “All I want to do is protect my family and my children and my community.

“This is something anybody would do. It is my moral obligation.

“I want people to be able to see exactly what this is all about.

“It is the darkest cloud which hangs over your life.”

And he has promised to keep up his fight in spite of Fylde’s action.

“It is not a one off,” said Mr Tootill.

“So long as there is the threat of fracking in the area I’m going to continue trying to stimulate awareness.”

A Fylde Council spokesman said: “Mr Tootill has been summoned to appear before Blackpool Magistrates’ Court on 26 charges of displaying unauthorised advertisements on land at Maple Farm Nurseries adjoining Blackpool Road.

“Mr Tootill has already pleaded not guilty at an earlier magistrates’ court hearing and the case has been set down for trial on May 19 and 20.”

Mr Tootill is due before magistrates tomorrow for an administrative hearing at which the court is expected to make orders and directions to ensure the smooth running of the trial.

Supporters of fracking say it will secure the nation’s gas supply, generate tax revenue and provide jobs, opponents say it poses an environmental pollution risk, a risk of earth tremors and will damage tourism and agriculture.

Gas exploration company Cuadrilla has applied to drill and test frack for gas on land at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, and Roseacre on the Fylde. The planning application was turned down by Lancashire County Council last June and a planning appeal inquiry was held at Blackpool Football Club in March.

The report is due in early July and the final decision will be made by minister Greg Clark.