Yesterday at Manchester Civil Justice Centre, oil and gas exploration company, Cuadrilla, sought an injunction to outlaw protests outside their fracking site on Preston New Road in Lancashire.
Cuadrilla, along with local farmers, had filed papers to the Court for an injunction covering its shale gas exploration operations at the site. The proposed injunction sought to extend and replace a previous injunction that only outlawed trespass on the company's Preston New Road shale gas exploration site and surrounding farmland, and expires at the end of August this year.
The new injunction would last for two years and prohibit obstruction of the site entrance and adjacent Preston New Road, and would include an 'exclusion zone' that would stretch for fifty metres. This would include 'lock–ons', climbing onto vehicles and slow walking in front of vehicles accessing or leaving the site. Disruption of Cuadrilla's supply chain would also be covered by the proposed injunction.
The judge, Mark Pelling QC, told the hearing in Manchester he would rule today on whether to grant an interim injunction until a later hearing in July.*
The draft order was opposed by four anti-fracking campaigners - Ian Crane, Bob and Darren Dennett and Tom Burke - and is similar to one secured by Ineos Upstream for sites across the country which is now being challenged at the Court of Appeal. Anyone in breach of the injunction could be found to be in contempt of court and might face imprisonment, fines or seizure of assets.
Before the start of the hearing, a demonstration was held outside the Civil Justice Centre... "We are here today because Cuadrilla has applied for a license to remove the right for peaceful protest" explained Eve Nortley, North West rep for Global Justice Now "This will set a precedent for the whole of the UK.
"Cuadrilla has a license to frack at Preston New Road just outside Blackpool and they have been trying to get their drilling rig up for a very long time and now they are facing financial hardship" she added "Another issue is that constabularies from other areas of the UK are policing it. This is because the local community voted no to fracking; that's local families including local police and their families.
"Even if they get the right to remove people who are peacefully protesting the protest will continue" she insisted "A large number of people have already been taken to court from the Preston New Road site; the majority of them are in their late 60s, 70s and 80s. It is shocking when all they have done is peacefully protest."
The hearing was adjourned until noon today when the protest is expected to continue.
Update: 6pm The judge granted a temporary injunction against protests at the site lasting 40 days until a two day hearing ending 11th July
For a full report from court see Drill Or Drop – click here
Words and photos by Steven Speed