Two rallies against fracking today attracted hundreds of campaigners from across the country.
Organisers estimated about 500 people gathered near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool for a rally billed as a family-friendly national day of action.
After the event, police said about 250 people made their way to the shale gas site and about 150 tried to get inside. The road was closed during the afternoon. There had been no arrests at the time of writing.
Near Sheffield, organisers of a march said more than 400 people walked from Mosborough to Marsh Lane in Derbyshire where INEOS has announced plans for what could be its first shale gas site.
Preston New Road rally
People from as far apart as Brighton, Scarborough and Yeovil joined local residents at a rally with speeches and music at Maple Farm, near Little Plumpton.
Claire Stephenson, of Preston New Road Action Group told the Blackpool Gazette the rally had been “brilliant” and support from around the country had been “heartening”.
She told the paper:
“We had a really lovely event and then a water blessing afterwards. Our event ended at 2pm so we can’t comment any anything after that. Our message is peaceful protest.”
But Claire Stephenson said she could understand the frustrations of those who continued on to the fracking site:
“The feeling of anger won’t go away. You can’t really say how people will react.”
A police statement issued this afternoon said:
“POLICE are currently dealing with a significant number of protestors at the Cuadrilla site on Preston New Road.
“Following an earlier event at Maple Farm badged as a national day of anti fracking action, a significant number of protestors believed to number around 250 made to the Cuadrilla site on Preston New Road.
“Around 150 of those proceeded to try to breach the fencing and to gain access to the site.
The police statement continued:
“The A583 is currently closed while police deal with the protestors.
“Those engaged in the behaviour are largely thought to be from outside the area and not from the local protest groups.
“A significant policing response was required to prevent disorder while maintaining the right of those who wished to protest lawfully. This was done calmly and professionally by the officers involved.
“No arrests have been made at this time, although an investigation will follow to identify any criminality.
“Our approach is always to ensure a consistent and coordinated policing response and ensure a balance between the rights of people to lawfully protest, together with the rights of the wider public, including local businesses, to go about their lawful activities.
“We aim to prevent, where possible, crime and disorder, but where it does occur we will provide an effective, lawful and proportionate response.”
Cuadrilla made a statement to the Blackpool Gazette:
“Organisers of the anti-fracking rally held at Maple Farm, Preston New Road, claimed they wanted a peaceful demonstration. This has been very far from the case.
“We have seen dozens of activists aggressively breaking through fencing to trespass on the local farmer’s land site causing damage to equipment.
“We have also seen distasteful intimidation at the local farmer’s home where he lives with his family.
“This is unacceptable, irresponsible behaviour which has resulted in road closure, disruption to the local community and landowner and the need for significant police force resource. The unacceptable face of anti-fracking activism is clear for all to see.”
Mosborough-Marsh Lane march
Residents opposed to INEOS Shale’s plans to drill an exploration well at Marsh Lane walked around four miles from Mosborough, through Eckington, to the proposed site.
The organisers told the Sheffield Star that significantly higher numbers than expected turned out at Eckington.
They said they had hoped 200 people would join the march but they lost count at 250.
One of the organisers, Sarah Vause, told the paper:
“Everybody’s got a right to their opinion, and we had the right to stage a peaceful protest today”
Dorking demonstration against drilling
In Surrey, about 20 campaigners against plans to drill for oil near the Leith Hill beauty spot marched through Dorking.
The drilling site, at Bury Hill Wood, has permission and the developer, Europa, is currently negotiating with Surrey County Council over planning conditions.
Opponents have occupied the site and have been organising events every Saturday. A possession order was granted in the High Court to Europa last month.