North Wales Police has confirmed it will not be sending more officers to police protests outside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site near Blackpool.
The force supplied officers at the Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton for a week earlier this month and a team of a sergeant and six constables will be on duty this week.
But North Wales Police has turned down a request for reinforcements for another four weeks and a statement today said the support would end on Friday:
“We regularly support colleagues across the region as and when we can and when asked. As a force we also benefit from their support and it’s only right, when able, we reciprocate.
“North Wales Police officers have supported colleagues in Lancashire between 9th and 14th July and then from 23rd to 28th July.
“However due to high demands in north Wales over the holiday season, we are unable, at this time, to offer any further support. Colleagues in Lancashire are aware of, and understand this decision.”
“Let Cuadrilla pay for their own security”
At the weekend, the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, Arfon Jones, an opponent of fracking, said on Twitter:
“No more @NWPolice officers will be going to facilitate Cuadrilla’s business in Lancs. Let them pay for their own security.”
In a statement today he asked:
“Why should officers from North Wales be sent to police and facilitate an activity where the activity is more or less unlawful in their own country?”
Mr Jones said he was unhappy about North Wales officers going to Lancashire but the decision to pull out was operational.
“I was told last week that there would be no further deployments after I made representations around capacity issues in North Wales and questioned how could we justify sending officers to Lancashire in those circumstances.
“I’ve now been told there will be just one more week of support in Preston and that North Wales Police have refused a request for a further four weeks of reinforcements.”
Mr Jones said he was an environmental campaigner before he was elected Police and Crime Commissioner. He said:
“I have opposed fracking as I considered it a danger in many respects but mainly because of potential pollution of water.
“I was a prominent member of Frack Free Wrexham and campaigned strongly and eventually successfully to prevent IGas carrying out exploratory drilling at Borras.
“I was also prominent in lobbying Welsh Government to issue a moratorium over fracking in Wales which they did and will continue to lobbying them utilise new powers delegated to them over energy to ban fracking in line with other European countries.”
The North Wales force is one of several providing officers to Lancashire to police the protests at Preston New Road. Last week police from Cumbria were outside the site.
The officers are deployed under a so-called “mutual aid” system, where one force provides assistance to another. This is usually in response, or expectation, or a major incident. It began at Preston New Road on 10 July 2017.
This coincided with 24-hour policing at the site in response to a month of direct action by the national group, Reclaim the Power. It said the actions had resulted in 16 working days of blockades of the site entrance.
This morning four people, most from Oxford, used arm tubes to form a barrier against incoming vehicles. Supporters of the action dressed in red striped t-shirts with masks of the Where’s Wally character.
Alice Smith, who took part in the protest, said:
“We are here today because Cuadrilla are taking us for wallies by undermining local democracy and putting the environment at risk by pursuing fracking in Lancashire. But the real Wally is Cuadrilla as it becomes clearer that the fracking industry has no future in the UK.”
Four people were arrested this morning, two for allegedly obstructing the highway and two on suspicion of committing offences under trades union legislation.
Lancashire Police would not comment on the decision by North Wales to pull out of the mutual aid scheme. So far, the force has been also been supported by officers from Merseyside, Cumbria, North Yorkshire, West Midlands, Warwickshire and West Mercia.
Rising costs and arrests
Data collected by Lancashire Police has put the cost of policing the site from January-June 2017 at £846,502. There have been 182 arrests and 169 charges over the same period.
Cuadrilla said today:
“The right to protest should not supersede the right to work.”
Pat Davies from Preston New Road Action Group, which opposes Cuadrilla’s operations, said:
“Any policing bill should not be met by local people but by Cuadrilla. They should meet those costs in full.”