Politics

Cheshire police commissioner demands IGas pay Upton eviction costs

John DwyerThe Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire is demanding IGas pay the costs of the operation to evict a protest camp from its exploratory gas site at Upton.

John Dwyer said this afternoon he was “outraged” that IGas had decided to give up on the site at Dutton’s Lane just weeks after the eviction.

IGas announced last Friday that it would not be drilling at Duttons Lane, or at another site near Chester at Salters Lane, Mickle Trafford. It said coal bed methane exploration in the area was not commercially viable. See DrillOrDrop report

But less than four weeks ago, on 12th January, about 175 officers from four police forces supported High Court bailiffs to evict the Upton camp. Cheshire Police later estimated its costs to be £200,000.

Mr Dwyer said he believed the campaigners would have left voluntarily if they’d known IGas was pulling out. He said he would be writing to the company seeking to recoup the costs. In a statement he said:

“I’m outraged, frankly, that IGas have managed to take this decision so shortly after choosing to enforce the eviction.”

“Once court appointed bailiffs were called in, the Constabulary had a duty to oversee an operation to ensure that lawful protest could take place, and that bailiffs, protestors and the wider public were kept safe as well as ensuring the company’s legal rights were complied with.”

The eviction operation lasted about seven hours and nine people were arrested, including the local ward councillor, Matt Bryan.

Mr Dywer added:

“It’s a credit to officers on the ground that it went without any major incident. But let’s be clear – it was not without risk of serious injury, given the state of the site.

“I find it impossible to believe that IGas did not already know that they would be making this decision.

“If they had announced that they would not be drilling on the site I’m confident protestors would have left voluntarily, and we could have avoided what was a difficult, challenging police operation at considerable cost to the public purse.

“I will now be writing to the directors of the company to set out my unhappiness at the approach they have taken, and to demand that the cost of the police operation, which could have been avoided, is repaid.”

On Friday, IGas would not comment on the eviction or the costs of the policing operation.

We asked the company this afternoon if it wanted to make a statement in the light of Mr Dywer’s remarks. A spokesperson said:

“Protestors were on the site illegally.  It is a matter for the local Police Authority to assess the policing requirements needed to support the eviction process.”

DrillOrDrop has a daily digest of news, updated as it happens.Link here

Updated at 17.53 to include IGas comment

7 replies »

  1. This is simply lip service unless the Commissioner states legal action will ensue unless a specific amount of money is offered as compensation.

  2. I have no issue with the politics here and understand the commissioners position, but does anyone really believe that if IGas had said to the protesters that they were not going to use the field they would have just packed up and gone? After all, the protesters set up camp there even though there was no intention to actually drill there and the protest camp just patted itself on the back and assumed it was doing something when in reality it need never have been there at all. It justified itself to itself to make it feel like it had a reason to do what it was doing, but it was only ever self justification.
    Turns out that not only was there no reason for it to be there in terms of drilling or planned activity during the period when the land was occupied, but the land was never going to be used anyway because the geology was not good enough.
    The protesters pretty much define themselves on ignoring anything the companies say. I just can’t imagine that they’d have packed up and gone just because IGas sent them a letter saying the geology was uneconomic at the current time.

    • It is now a matter for the Police Commissioner on behalf of the Cheshire Police force and the residents of the county that he represents to now enforce a claim of £200,000 based on what could be argued was a deliberate deception. The protesters have the right to peaceful protest which was followed. The company had the right to go to court and the judge was correct to uphold an eviction order. The bailiffs then have the right legally to evict protesters. However Island gas had no right in my view to deceive the court or the protesters by deliberately withholding information that they must have held in advance of the application for eviction. The protesters had to be tested as to whether they would respond to a reasonable request from Island gas to leave their land because it was not going to be used and therefore no action would be taken against them for eviction. The protesters were not given this reasonable chance to act upon a reasonable request supported by reasonable advance information as to why the eviction from the site would not go ahead. It is not a matter of belief now but one of law in the courts and, knowing the dreadful state of Island gas is finances, I only hope that this is the final straw when they lose the case. They have brought in a barrister over in North Notts to contest that they have the legal right to park Portakabins security fences and blazing security our clients onto a site they have rented at Tinker Lane. They are trying to intimidate the local authority who were approached by local residents saying that no Planning Permission had been granted for the Portakabins and lights et cetera. Initially the council stated that it was “expedient” to let them stay. This, I suppose is because they expected a planning application following a scoping request. The buildings and lights have been there for week after week after week. They are certainly not temporary. The Bassetlaw District Council has now asked an opposing barrister for a legal opinion on their behalf as to why their enforcement order, should it be made to remove the buildings. Island gas have stated that they had to do this on grounds of “security”
      no protesters have been any where near this site and they are trying to steam roller the local police who have to act in a fair way as to the circumstances. They cannot give any proof whatsoever that there is a security threat to them that warrants breaking a planning application rule which ordinary people have to observe. Island gas thinks it can play fast and loose with Planning permission.
      It is very important that all legal challenges are made against this company, which is being bankrolled in its millions upon millions of pounds losses to its own shareholders by Total, who are in deep trouble also with deep water gas extraction in Shetland. These companies in America are going bust hand over fist and the sooner the better. Congratulations today to mark Ruffalo for his statement pre-Oscar nomination ceremony to Friends of the Earth address to David Cameron that he personally has experienced the dreadful way in which fracking companies have treated Americans.
      It is also significant that the European Parliament has just voted by 347 votes in favour to 298 votes against that with regard to fracking “the precautionary principle should be exercised”. They urge the maverick British government and all other European states not to proceed with new adventures into fracking. But “Tally Ho for gas” is trying to ride roughshod over all protesters in this country. STAND-yo UP!
      David Larder
      Chair (Bassetlaw Against Fracking”

    • This is a great example of IGAS being duplicitous.

      The primary reason they went for eviction was to protect/affect their share price! If they had said months before, when the eviction was being mooted, shareholders would have run for cover. At that point, IGAS’ share price was foaming about 14p, and has struggled to climb much higher. That news, then, could have been a death knell for IGAS.

      I’m ex oil and gas industry, and holder of many shares (not in any fracking based coy), and I am aware of complaints being prepared to suspend IGAS due to deliberate manipulation of stock values, insider dealing, and other terms contrary to LSX regs.

      The equally as strong, but definitely secondary reason they went for eviction was to cause distraction to assist another fracking coy, by causing many other anti-fracking protesters (protectors they call themselves) to converge in a pointless area, causing less support at the other location.

      No, I do not think the protectors would leave, on hearing the area was being abandoned. They have form for staying until past the end of licence time frame, which is supported by the Royal Courts of Justice, re. Balcombe, so they can confirm safety of land, others then attempt in their own manner to heal the land, still another valid form of protest.

      I spent last weekend in Scotland, speaking with OIM/company level folk on the periphery of fracking, and longterm actual frackers from Australia, Colorado, and Canada. A concensus of the quorum we established showed that the reputation of ALL oil & gas, exploration/extraction/refining, in the UK, was now damaged – not by protectors, but by seemingly cowboyesque exploration outfits, and negligent policing, where both crush the right to protest. Further, protests in other distant countries are more intense now than ever. Others have seem the UK stand up, causing them to think that if ‘safe’ stuff can’t happen in the UK, then why allow less monitored activities in their own countries?

      • Good points made, especially about Scotland and other countries and great to know about fracking protests in other countries.

        For my part Peel conglomerate, established in UK 2007 and in Australia 2007 (home of Lynton Crosby—now chased by Ch 4 re vote rigging scandals and money spent on elections) also play a part in this iGas debacle.

        Let’s not forget any land not used for fracking can be given over immediately for building upon and Peel have built up a strong infrastructure plan on the coat tails of the fracking licensing trail, from Liverpool docks which they control to Manchester Ship Canal which they own, across the northern frackhouse into Tyneside, with NYCC planning permissions already granted for some initiatives. Peel conglom partnered with iGas last year to boost their presence and strength, so will be looking to develop this land if the licence isn’t approved or pursued.

        In some areas PEDL licences seem to be a back door to claiming building on green land a very lucrative prospect for property developers who would never have been given permission for building projects alone, had the government not trolled out this WMD fracking war on communities, who would have just as strongly objected to the great steal of green spaces.

        As for crushing the right to protest, this has been rolling out since the 1980’s and shows a shameful oppression of democracy in this country.

        ITV last week, in Yorkshire where voices are growing in protest, shamefully slipped out a breathtaking missive when Duncan Smith news reader and now industry propagandist, gratuitously blared out that the police were conducting a criminal investigation into someone’s name being erroneously put forward as a fracking protestor. When news items can be deployed as a means of bludgeoning protest we have cause to worry about how desperate the industry is to oppress and bludgeon and stifle protests in this country.

    • So Garry, how about we write about the massive amount of PEDL licences wasting everyone’s time at local council level? This industry is putting enormous strain on our regional and local councils who are paid by rates we pay, not the industry rates pre roll out, and should not have time wasted upon deliberate abuse of planners time looking at obsolete applications when companies know full well the areas they want to frack are not suitable for the industrial roll out?

      At least volunteer protestors are demonstrating how far industry will got to roll out WMD assaults on local communities, and use the police as their own militia to help them do it, while iGas et al are paid, often with our taxes aka ”state benefits” to the tune of millions of pounds, and other government funding to wage war on local democracy.

      How about writing of that Garry?

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