Breaking: Judge grants Cuadrilla injunction over Lancs fracking site to 2020
BY RUTH HAYHURST
A High Court judge has granted Cuadrilla its injunction against specific anti-fracking protests around its shale gas site near Blackpool.
The injunction outlaws direct actions including trespass, slow walking, lock-ons, obstruction of the highway and lorry surfing at and near the Preston New Road site
It also prohibits interference of named companies that supply the site.
The injunction replaces an earlier order against trespass at Preston New Road and will last until 1 June 2020.
Judge Mark Pelling QC said of the injunction was needed because people who had previously protested at Preston New Road had moved to other shale gas sites.
“This suggests that without the order in place, such people would return to the PNR site and resume the unlawful activity that gave rise to the application in the first place.”
He said of the order:
“[it] strikes the correct balance between the rights of the company and the protesters because protesters have been able to protest including gathering on the highway and, gathering in the bellmouth for public meetings, albeit for limited period.”
“The claimants [Cuadrilla[ fear that without the protection of the order sought there would be an upsurge in protest activity in September 2018 when fracking is due to commence and thereafter with flow testing of gas commences
“These fears are well founded.”
Judge Pelling rejected arguments made at a hearing yesterday by two anti-fracking campaigners that there was no imminent threat and that action over unlawful acts should be left to the police. He also rejected their concerns that the injunction was against “persons unknown” or that it also applied to members of Cuadrilla’s supply chain.
He made small changes to the wording of the order.
At yesterday’s hearings, the campaigners also argued that Cuadrilla’s evidence was inaccurate and exaggerated. They also said the injunction breached human rights and was already having a chilling effect on the behaviour of people opposed to shale gas developments.
One of the campaigners, Bob Dennett, accused Cuadrilla of manipulating evidence to make it appear that a temporary injunction issued on 1 June 2018 appeared to have worked. He also described some of Cuadrilla’s statements about protester activity as “largely just allegations, conjecture, exaggeration, hearsay and rumour and, in some instances, outright lies.”
Ian Crane, the other challenger, described the injunction as an abuse of process that undermined democracy. He said:
“If granted it takes the regulation of freedom of expression and association into a whole new area with severe wide-ranging restrictions.
“If there is to be no opportunity to express concern, beyond standing on the side of street waving a banner without the penalty of losing assets or liberty, this should be put before parliament. It should not be put before a civil court.”
Yesterday, Tom Roscoe, for Cuadrilla, described the injunction as a:
“just and convenient and a proportionate interference with the protestors’ human rights.”
He said the temporary injunction had resulted in “no diminution of the ability of peaceful law-abiding protesters to assemble outside the Preston New Road site”.
But he said without the injunction
“protesters will seek to disrupt, delay or prevent the attainment of those milestones by the same sorts of unlawful acts which have been deployed in the past.”
Cuadrilla did not seek costs against Mr Crane and Mr Dennett. They did not seek to take the injunction to trial. But anyone could do this at any time between now and 2020.