The shale gas company, Cuadrilla, is going to court on Monday to try to renew an injunction at its Preston New Road fracking site at Little Plumpton, near Blackpool.
A hearing before a High Court judge in Manchester seeks to prevent access to the site, where work began in January in advance of drilling and fracking.
Yesterday, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, criticised on-going anti-fracking protests outside the Preston New Road site. Quoted in The Guardian, he said: “I think it is irresponsible because people have a right to go about their day to day work. Your right to protest shouldn’t be allowed to supersede some business’s right to do business with us.”
Notices about the injunction were posted at the site yesterday. The claimants named on the notice include two Cuadrilla companies and 10 owners of the land. The defendants are named as “persons unknown”, “persons entering or remaining on land at Little Plumpton & at Roseacre” and Tina Rothery.
Ms Rothery, a leading anti-fracking campaigner, was named on the previous injunction, granted in 2014, for the Preston New Road site and another proposed fracking site at Roseacre Wood.
She became involved in a long-running legal dispute with Cuadrilla over costs after she asked for an adjournment to a court hearing considering that injunction.
She was ordered to pay costs of more than £55,000. When she refused to provide her financial details to the court she was found in contempt and ordered to spend two weeks in jail. The case ended in December 2016 when a judge at Preston Combined Court discharged the contempt of court and said Ms Rothery would not be sent to jail.
Ms Rothery said this morning:
“I am aware of the legal process that is happening. I disagree that it should be done in my name”.
Claire Stephenson, of Preston New Road Action Group, which opposes Cuadrilla’s operation, said:
“It seems odd that a company who hold no social license, yet are forcing their way into a community in the face of ongoing legal action, are seeking another land injunction.
“Once again, they have named local resident Tina Rothery as a defendant, even after their disastrous bullying attempts to vilify her last time were thrown out of court by a judge. Is Cuadrilla becoming uneasy regarding their mounting delays and increasing opposition they face?”
Cuadrilla has told DrillOrDrop that its operation remained on schedule.
Restore previous injunction
Cuadrilla said the application was to restore the previous injunction on Preston New Road, which expired last year.
The legal action follows a decision by a small number of people to enter the field surrounding the shale gas site after an anti-fracking rally last Saturday (25 February 2017).
The company’s spokesperson said:
“In 2014 local farmers and Cuadrilla were granted an injunction against trespass on farmland at and surrounding Cuadrilla’s shale gas exploration site at Preston New Road.
“This injunction expired in October 2016. Following the events of Saturday 25th February when a so-called peaceful protest resulted in further trespass on local farmland and destruction of some property we and local farmers have applied for a renewal of the former injunction.
“This is in order to protect local farmer’s land and livelihoods and our operational site at Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton.”
Earlier this week, Lancashire Police corrected a statement that about 150 people had attempted to break into the site after a national day of action at Maple Farm nearby. A revised statement said the number was “a handful of people”
Asked what damage had been done, Cuadrilla’s spokesperson said it was “mainly to fencing”. Some anti-fracking campaigners said a section of heras-type fencing had been knocked over and there had been a gap in the hedge around the site.
Cuadrilla’s spokesperson said the application to be made on Monday was similar to that made in 2014 but she added:
“We have stated that Roseacre Wood does not need to be included at this time.”
The Roseacre Wood site, a few miles from Preston New Road, does not have planning permission for shale gas drilling or fracking.
The company’s spokesperson added:
“When applying for the current injunction, which is a renewal of the 2014 injunction, the correct process is to ask the Court to “restore” the original claim and make the application under that claim number. Because it is the original claim that is being restored, all parties must remain the same.”
The hearing is at 11.30am on Monday at the High Court in Manchester at the Civil and Family Justice Centre, 1 Bridge Street West, Manchester M60 9DJ