Cuadrilla confirmed this morning it was taking further action to prevent protests outside its site at Preston New Road near Blackpool.
The company also said it had submitted an application to the Energy Secretary for hydraulic fracturing consent at the site. If approved, this would be the first high volume frack in the UK since 2011 and would be the UK’s first ever frack on a horizontal shale gas well.
In a press statement this morning, the company and landowners had filed papers to the High Court to replace the injunction currently in place at the site. A hearing is due to take place on 31 May 2018 in Manchester.
The campaign group, Frack Free Lancashire, described the development as “desperate measures” by Cuadrilla and said protests would continue.
Cuadrilla said the proposed injunction would replace and extend the duration of an existing injunction , granted in March 2017, forbidding trespass at the site and surrounding farmland. The new order seeks to prohibit what is described as unlawful obstruction” of the site entrance and the adjacent main road.
If approved, it would prohibit lock-ons”, where protesters chain themselves to objects or together to prevent access. It would also prevent climbing onto, or slow walking in front of, vehicles accessing or leaving the site.
The draft injunction also seeks to prevent protesters combining together to commit unlawful acts to “injure or cause damage to Cuadrilla”.
Unlawful disruption of Cuadrilla’s supply chain by, for example, blockading supplier properties would also be covered by the proposed injunction.
There have been daily protests outside the Preston New Road site since work began in January 2017. Lancashire Police said 341 people had been arrested up to March 2018. Campaigners have also protested outside Cuadrilla suppliers.
Today’s development follows similar applications to the courts by Ineos and UK Oil & Gas.
Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, said:
“Whilst we fully respect the right to peaceful and legal protest, unfortunately over the last 18 months we have seen an extraordinarily high level of unlawful protest activity.
“This has been directed at and impacted not just our workers but also our suppliers and other law abiding citizens using the main road passing our site for their normal daily activities.
“Such unlawful conduct cannot be permitted to continue, and we hope that if we can secure this injunction it will deter this unlawful behaviour which is reckless and continues to cost local taxpayers millions of pounds.”
In the court papers, Cuadrilla said it feared “an imminent escalation” of protests in June 2018. It says the campaign group, Reclaim the Power, is planning a fortnight of direct action between 11-24 June against the fracking industry, supply chain and political support.
The hearing is scheduled to take place at Manchester High Court District Registry, Civil Justice Centre, 1 Bridge Street West, Manchester M60 9DJ at 10:30am on Thursday, 31 May 2018.
All papers regarding the application to the High Court are at this link
On the application for fracking consent, Mr Egan said:
“Following the Government’s very recent announcement which underlined the national importance of shale gas we are very pleased to submit our application for hydraulic fracturing consent to the Secretary of State. We are now very close to demonstrating that Lancashire shale gas can be commercially developed in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. We look forward to receiving consent to progress from the Secretary of State at the earliest opportunity.”
A spokesperson for the Frack Free Lancashire campaign group said this morning:
“Frack Free Lancashire is wholly unsurprised that Cuadrilla need to resort to the desperate lengths of an injunction that assaults our basic human rights of meaningful protest, under sections 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act 1998. The only surprise is that it’s taken them so long to attempt to buy the law.
“When you have forced a dirty industry past all manner of democracy and the refusal of local communities, protest and dissent is expected.
“This industry and its inflictors are both toxic and unwanted. Protest will continue, regardless of the fracking industry trying to manipulate the law to benefit their own ailing operations.”
A spokesperson for Lancashire For Shale said:
“We welcome today’s news that Cuadrilla is seeking to provide greater safeguarding for local businesses that want to play a role in the developing shale gas supply chain.
“Over 700 local businesses have expressed an interest in supplying the industry, and, already, Cuadrilla’s activities at Preston New Road have seen nearly £9m spent with Lancashire firms. The protection that this injunction would provide for local businesses will allow even more to engage without fear of being targeted.
“A successful shale gas industry will be a boon for Lancashire, bringing new contracting opportunities, boosting the jobs market and stimulating inward investment. We need to do everything we can to maximise the potential for local people and businesses to benefit, and an injunction will be a great help with that.”