Road closed once more amid protests at fracking site

A major road into Blackpool was closed for most of the day after anti-fracking campaigners stage a lock-on at the entrance to a drill site.

Wednesday, 12th July 2017, 5:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:47 am
Anti-fracking protesters locked-on at the Preston New Road

The protest was staged by four people, three members of the same Lancashire family who locked themselves together with their arms inside large boxes reading ‘families against fracking’ outside the gates of the Preston New Road exploratory fracking site.

Police closed the road to release them and at the same time a demonstration by 100 women dressed in white calling for calm after allegations of heavy-handed policing and security took place at the site.

However, some scuffles broke out with other protesters as police tried to isolate the locked-on protesters to cut them free and arrest them.

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Anti-fracking protesters at the Preston New Road drill site

Gillian Kelly, 73, mother of Sebastian, 48, and grandmother of Megan, 19, all locked-on at the site along with Paul Martyn, 61, said: "I’ve never done anything like this before, but I can’t sit idly and watch the place I was born and raised be poisoned and polluted by fracking.

"I feel now I’ve got to make a stand. This will affect my whole family and their futures; my sons, my grandchildren – and that’s why we’re taking action together as a family today."

The protest and demonstration came as as part of the Rolling Resistance month of action, organised by local anti-fracking groups and national network Reclaim the Power. It aims to disrupt work at Cuadrilla’s site every day in July as the company prepares to bring its main drilling rig to the site to begin the process of drilling four wells to frack and test for gas flow.

The campaigners say fracking, which involves injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into shale rock to release gas, could pollute air and water and lead to tremors and industrialisation of the countryside.

Anti-fracking protesters at the Preston New Road drill site

Supporters of fracking, who say it will create jobs, provide a tax boost to the economy and a secure home grown supply of gas for heating and industry, condemned the action of the campaigners saying blocking main roads was irresponsible.

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla said: “We unreservedly condemn the Greenpeace activists who have yet again blocked a major road regularly used by commuters, tourists and emergency services in Lancashire today.

"This is not the 'rolling roadside peaceful protest’ that was claimed would happen. We call upon Greenpeace to put a stop to such reckless and aggressive behaviour which is unnecessarily causing more chaos and upset for locals and wasting valuable Police resource.

"We have a democratic right to conduct our business as do those who choose to peacefully protest , there is no justification whatsover for this kind of negligent and irresponsible behaviour.”

And a spokesman from Lancashire For Shale said: "Enough is enough. Our patience is wearing thin, since repeat lock-ons are achieving nothing, besides disrupting the day to day activities of local residents and businesses, at a significant cost to the local taxpayer.

"Tougher action is needed now. It is time for increased fines and judicial sentences for anyone arrested, particularly repeat offenders.

"Lancashire For Shale condemns these ongoing, repeat lock-ons, which are associated with unacceptable aggressive behaviour towards the police."

Meanwhile Lancashire police said that Christopher Saltmarsh, 21, of Cricket Road, Oxford; Grace Lane, 24, of Ridge Terrace, Leeds and Christopher Wilson, 55, of Preston New Road, Blackpool have all been charged with obstruction of a highway following a lock-on protest on Tuesday and were due to appear at Blackpool Mags on August 7th.