Court orders Upton anti-fracking camp to leave within 28 days

Campaigners outside the court this morning

Campaigners outside the court this morning

Anti-fracking protesters have been ordered to leave their camp on land at near Chester that is earmarked as an IGas coal bed methane site.

But they were given 28 days to “pack up and vacate” because they have been at the camp for over 18 months.

To cries of shame, a judge at the High Court in Manchester granted an eviction order for the site off Dutton’s Lane, Upton, to IGas and two landowners, Tim and Peers Dutton.

The campaigners were refused leave to appeal and IGas’s application for costs against two camp residents was also turned down.

The campaigners established the protection camp in April 2014, arguing that the site would be used for fracking.

In court, they said they were legally protected from the Eviction Act because the camp was their dwelling. They said there had been a “tacit agreement” with the landowner for them to be on the land. They should have a proper written notice to terminate what they called a “licence” to occupy the premises, they argued.

Their lawyer asked the court to give “great weight” to children at the camp, even though they were not represented.

IGas argued that the farmer had been tolerant of the camp but had not made an agreement with the campaigners.

The judge said the argument that the campaigners had permission was “incredible beyond belief”.

He said there was no reason why peaceful protest could not take place without the occupation of the land. He added it was not in the best interests of children to live at the camp.

Phil McCann, of BBC Radio, reported that some supporters of the campaigners left th court shouting when the ruling was read out.

The national anti-fracking campaign group, Frack Off, said this afternoon:

“Community pressure does it again. Upton Community Protection Camp eviction delayed until at least 4th Dec. Every delay is a victory”.

It added:

“85% of the community at Upton oppose IGas plans to drill to coal seams in an attempt to extract Coal Bed Methane. The proposed site is located in farmland just 500m from the nearest residents and has 8 schools within a 1 mile radius.”

“[The camp’s] presence has defended the community from becoming a regional foothold for the industry.”

The case began chaotically this morning when Chester’s MP, Labour’s Chris Matheson, and the local paper, the Chester Chronicle, were not allowed in the court. The case later moved to a larger room. Mr Matheson told the Chester Chronicle he would raise the problems with the Speaker of the House of Commons.

  • Live reporting by David Holmes of the Chester Chronicle here
  • Live tweets from the court by BBC reporter, Phil McCann here

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