People in the village of Woodsetts in south Yorkshire gathered this evening for a giant photo with pieces of tape printed with the INEOS logo stuck across their mouths.
They were protesting about legal action taken by INEOS to deter anti-fracking demonstrators, as well as plans by the company to drill a shale gas well near their homes.
The picture will be handed in to 10 Downing Street tomorrow by the campaigner, Joe Corre, and a nine-year-old boy who wrote to Theresa May in January asking her to stop fracking.
Many homes in the village display posters for Woodsetts Against Fracking, the organisers of this evening’s Halloween-themed event. All the people that DrillOrDrop spoke to were angry at what INEOS was seeking to do in Woodsetts and the way it was going about it.
They used words like “horrendous”, “disgusting”, “frightening” and “abhorrent”. INEOS was said to be “bombastic”, “arrogant” and “not prepared to listen”.
The company’s planning application for a vertical well – but not fracking – is expected to be sent Rotherham Borough Council imminently.
The proposed site is an open field, 450m from bungalows lived in by elderly and vulnerable people. The main entrance is 40m from homes and had been marked by a legal notice saying it was covered by a High Court injunction granted to INEOS. The wooden post had been broken and the notices were in the hedge bottom.
The injunction, regarded as one of the widest ever granted in the UK, seeks to prevent interruption of INEOS operations by protesters. It covers INEOS sites, offices, operations, transport routes and locations used by its contractors and supply chain.
Next week it will be challenged by Mr Corre and another anti-fracking campaigner, Joe Boyd.
To cheers, Mr Corre told the residents gathered on Woodsetts recreation ground this evening:
“You are fanatical, dangerous lunatics. That is how INEOS has portrayed you to the court.”
Mr Corre said:
“We will be able to put your side to the judge at the hearing next week. Because you are such dangerous, lunatic fanatics, the judge had to hold the first hearing in secret.
“Despite attempts by the company to threaten you in your homes and schools I am pretty sure you are not going to stand for it.”
The court will be given evidence from Richard Scholey, who lives in Woodsetts and retired today as a police inspector. He worked as a public order commander and trainer.
He said of the INEOS injunction:
“What I see is an erosion of human rights resulting from it.
“It is not just a bad thing in the community. It is a real risk for the relationship between police and the public. It will bring the police into conflict with law-abiding people who have environmental consciences.”
Mr Scholey said he’d been told by INEOS that the police would have to enforce the injunction on evidence provided by the company. He said:
“Under statutory legislation you will generally understand when you cause an obstruction of the highway, for example, and if you are convicted in a court what the penalty is likely to be.
“The problem with this injunction is that you won’t know if you have overstepped the mark and if you go to court you will have no idea of what the ultimate sanction can be. INEOS can seize your assets and seek imprisonment. Are we going to lose our homes?”
Mr Scholey described this evening’s event as “better than we could have ever expected. It shows the depth of feeling and the strength of opposition”.
The Green Party’s former leader, Nathalie Bennett, who attended the event, said fracking had engaged a lot of people in politics and as a result they had learned new skills and met new people.
“The community is taking back control and saying we are not going to let this happen.
“We have to make sure this continues when we have won.”
A survey in Woodsetts carried out after INEOS announced its plans in August, found that 90% were against fracking and one per cent was in favour.
People told DrillOrDrop how much they loved living in the village and what a strong sense of community it had.
They were concerned that if the INEOS well were approved all the large site traffic would have to come through the village. A low bridge would prevent it being routed from the other direction, they said. People also mentioned worries about noise, air pollution and the effect on the open landscape of the area.
One woman said:
“I think it is just going to poison everything. Things will never be the same.”
“What were they thinking of putting it here?”
Although the Woodsetts application does not include fracking, one man said:
“The only reason they are doing a test well is to be set up for a fracking site.”
Reporting for this post was made possible by donations by individual DrillOrDrop readers