The fracking company, Cuadrilla, said today it had set up a viewing area for its Preston New Road shale gas site near Blackpool.
In a statement, it said the area would allow “interested members of the public to observe the site from a safe location as work progresses and from which to conduct peaceful and lawful protest, if they wish.”
The announcement comes a day after the High Court judge, Sir Ian Dove, dismissed two legal challenges to the planning permission for the Preston New Road site.
There have been roadside protests since Cuadrilla began work on 5 January 2017. Opponents described the viewing area as “yet another attempt [by Cuadrilla] to ingratiate themselves with the community they have forced themselves upon”.
Cuadrilla said the area, measuring about 18mx12m, would be open during daylight hours, from about 9am-5pm each day that work was taking place. The statement said the area had clear visibility of the site. The company said:
“Members of the public interested in viewing the site are encouraged to make use of the space, which will ensure that the major A583 road and entrance junction is not obstructed and is kept safe and secure for all road users.”
High Court injunction
At a hearing in the High Court last month, the company sought to exclude a viewing area from an injunction outlawing public access to the Preston New Road site.
Anti-fracking campaigners argued in court that they could be “corralled” in the protest area and it would be used to justify excluding protest along the roadside. They also believed it would set a precedent for other shale gas sites around the country.
The judge, Philip Raynor QC, granted the injunction but refused to exclude the viewing area. He said the area, then described as 25mx25m, was too small to be reasonable and could be a source of “increased anger” if protest was limited to it.
Today, Cuadrilla said people who used the viewing area would not breach the injunction because the landowner had given consent for its use.
Preston New Road Action Group, which brought one of the challenges to the planning permission, responded to the announcement:
“It’s an interesting and grim take that Cuadrilla feel they need a “viewing area” at their Preston New Road site. Perhaps this is part of their belief that fracking will attract tourism.
“Yet another PR stunt, yet another attempt to ingratiate themselves with the community they have forced themselves upon.”