Regulation

Council bans pedestrians from fracking site verges until 2019 after spending £59k on security guards

 

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Security staff employed by Lancashire County Council. Photo: DrillOrDrop

 

Pedestrians have been barred from using the grass verges beside Cuadrilla’s shale gas site near Blackpool for more than a year and a half.

Lancashire County Council said this afternoon it had issued two temporary regulation orders for the short sections of verge either side of the site entrance at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton.

One order ran from 12 July to 1 August and the second from 1 August to 31 January 2019. Temporary Traffic Order Preston New Road

The ban emerged following a response to a Freedom of Information request about the cost of guarding the verges.

The council revealed that it had spent £59,280 for a month on security guards to prevent anti-fracking protesters using the verges either side of the site entrance.

In its response, the council also said:

“The County Council did fund security personnel on the highway in the vicinity of the site (this has now ceased) though public use of the highway is currently temporarily prohibited.”

Environmental campaigner, Helen Chuntso, who made the Freedom of Information (FOI) request, described the security contract as a “misuse of the public purse” and the ban on pedestrian use of the verges as “stretching the interpretation” of a temporary traffic order to “facilitate Cuadrilla”.

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Preston New Road 28 June 2017. Photo: DrillOrDrop

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Demolition on 3 July 2017

The verges had been used by opponents of Cuadrilla’s operation at Preston New Road.

Tents and pallet towers occupied the grass earlier this summer

High Court bailiffs evicted the tents and one tower on the morning of 12 July.

Another tower was demolished on 3 July, at a cost of £1,000, paid for by Lancashire Police.

 

This afternoon, Lancashire County Council told DrillOrDrop:

“As the land owner and highway authority we have a duty to consider the safety of road users. We undertook possession proceedings to secure the grass verge due to concerns that structures erected by protestors posed a serious safety risk to people using this busy A-road as well as the protestors themselves.

“After taking possession of the verge, we erected fencing and employed a security company to prevent the grass verge being reoccupied, also issuing a Temporary Traffic Regulation Notice prohibiting access to that part of the highway.

“In the meantime, the operator applied for a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order prohibiting access to the verge, which has been agreed in line with our normal practice in relation to works near the highway and concerns for safety.”

The order was published in the local Lancashire Evening Post and Blackpool Gazette newspapers and was displayed at the site, a spokesperson said.

According to the Freedom of Information response, the council employed six Security Industry Association-approved officers, two with guard dogs, to prevent access to the verges.

The arrangement was initially for one week but a further period of three weeks was agreed between the council and the contractor, the FOI response said.

“The contractor provided a quote based on the level of security they believed was suitable.

“I understand that, during an initial period, the contractor felt that an additional 2 officers should be on site. This additional cost was borne by the contractor.

“The council was satisfied that the contractor’s estimated personnel was proportionate to ensure safety of all, including their officers.”

Helen Chuntso said:

“In taking out a £59K contract to fund the private security guards of a corporation, Lancashire County Council are both misusing the ​public purse, and stretching the interpretation of the scope of a Temporary TRO to the fullest to facilitate Cuadrilla.

“This effectively removes the right to lawful protest on this section of public highway. With LCC only too happy to move these goalposts, weeks after a very tepid response to Cuadrilla’s planning conditions breach, it looks very much like the Council’s role is merely to quietly extend the red carpet further down the road for Cuadrilla, at taxpayer’s expense.”

24 replies »

    • I’m a bit confused. Perhaps one of the learned anti-frack “protectors” could help me? When the Council voted against fracking you were all so eager to point out that this was democracy in action. You readily ignored the fact that the Sec of State’s decision to overrule the local Council was also a function of democratic rule, when you claimed that democracy had rejected fracking. Fast forward to today, and you now complain that your elected Council is guilty of facilitating Cuadrilla because it is trying to protect its budget while also protecting the “protectors” from harm along the highway. Is it not still democracy in action when the Council makes decisions that you dislike? To where has your moral high-ground moved? Perhaps you can now claim that all of democracy has turned against you, as a giant corporate conspiracy has bought-off the country to kill its citizens? I wonder why it is that you are called “extremists”? ;o)

  1. It was a complete waste of money and nothing more than an exercise in intimidation to employ the ridiculous amount of security plus guard dogs for a six foot wide strip of verge. After the verge was cleared the council fenced it off and put an injunction on the verge. That’s all that was needed. No one has ever attempted to break the injunction on the land where the site is situated.

    • [Edited by moderator] Antifrackers stormed the field when the temporary site was setup throwing fences at security. [Edited by moderator]

      • Dave Johnson. Your quote regarding ‘Anti frackers storming the field” is taken from a post on Fylde Police website where they claimed over a hundred protestors. The police later had to withdraw the post and modify it to a handful of protestors. There is also serious doubt as to who exactly these people were, since they were unknown to regular protestors. But don’t let the truth get in the way of a bit of fracking industry propaganda.

  2. Council did the right things in the interest of public road safety. I am not sure why the protesters complain when it come to the protection of public safety.

  3. Blocking off access to a roadside grass verge creates danger for cyclists and pedestrians by blocking a place of safety, a refuge, in the event of an incident!
    Please inform the decision makers of this and advise them they will be held responsible for any damages or injuries resulting!
    Normally I would but i!m on other stuff at the moment!

    • They can use the other side of the road. Oh no but wait. This was taken up and blocked by the activists protestors. So Peter can you inform he protesters that blocking off the grass verge on roadside endanger pedestrian and cyclist amd they may be held responsible for it. But we all know in the past months these activists do not care about public road safety by climbing on truck and lying on the road.

    • The protesters have taken away the safe use of the verge anyway, hose the lot of them, they need it, look at the graffiti and vandalism they have caused, all because their opinions are are better than none else’s.

  4. Strange(?) how road safety is such an issue for on shore oil sites, but is completely reversed at PNR. And as for disturbance of wild life, how do camps on verges and along hedgerows equate with demands to retain such habitats? I know our local council are pretty clear about whether they should cut verges and hedges due to this, even around critical junctions. Why should one sector of the community expect such policies to be abandoned for their convenience?

  5. putting an injunction on the verges is one thing, spending almost £60k on ‘security’ (people standing around gazing at their mobile phones) is another

    if it was vital to have the ‘security’ then, why aren’t they there now, what has changed?

    and this from a council whose leader is under investigation for financial irregularities

  6. How much did it cost to deal with lorry surfers? It is Joe public who pays for such costs. It is inconvenience to Cuadrilla is the objective, and the spin off to public safety and public cost is just inconvenient, but a bit late for a smokescreen. Perhaps the limitless supply of photographic evidence was not too wise?

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