Nottinghamshire Police has introduced restrictions on where and when people can protest outside the IGas shale gas site at Tinker Lane, near Blyth.
A spokesperson for the force said the controls were necessary to “prevent intimidation” and the risk of serious injury to protesters and police. Opponents of IGas’s activities have dismissed suggestions of intimidation and said the protesters looked out for each other to minimise risk.
One person was arrested today for breaching the restrictions, a police spokesperson said.
The controls were introduced in a Section 14 notice, issued under the Public Order Act. It restricts protest to an area with temporary fencing on one side of the bellmouth at the site entrance.
A police spokesperson said:
“The designated protest site is the only site permissible for protest within one mile of the entrance gate to the Tinker Lane drilling site”.
The spokesperson said the designated hours of protest were between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Friday. No protests would be allowed outside these hours. The spokesperson added:
“The designated number of protestors is capped at a maximum of 50 (the safe occupancy level for the designated protest area).”
Asked why the force had issued the notice, the spokesperson said:
“Nottinghamshire Police believe that the circumstances and conditions, in which the public assembly and protest activity at Tinker Lane is being held, show that the organisers purpose is to intimidate others not to do something they have a right to do.
“Furthermore, the above conditions are necessary to prevent this intimidation and the reasonably foreseeable likelihood of serious injury to protestors and/or police officers that protesting in the highway represents in terms of pedestrian v vehicle contact.”
People opposed to IGas’s activities at Tinker Lane rejected this explanation today.
A person speaking on behalf of protesters, who call themselves Tinker Protectors, said the Section 14 notice was issued after the police “lost control of the situation”. He said protesters had danced in the road and had taken part in a slow walk protest in front of lorries delivering to the site.
Responding to the police statement, he said:
“There are no organisers of this protest. This is a protest by people from communities across the region who oppose shale gas exploration and fracking.
“There has been no intimidation. No drivers or workers at the site have been intimidated. They may have been slowed down but they have not been stopped from entering the site.
“It would be hard to be intimidated by a group of people dancing in the road.”
He said the designated protest area was on the more dangerous side of the bellmouth, adding:
“We minimise the risk of injury by looking out for each other.”
Frack Free Tinker Lane reported a large police presence at the site this morning. Nottinghamshire Police said it was unable to say for operational reasons how many officers were on duty.
Tinker Lane will see the first shale gas drilling in Nottinghamshire. IGas began bringing in drilling equipment last week (DrillOrDrop report) and this continued today. A convoy delivered rig components, water tanks, cabins, lighting and staircases. One person said an estimated 10-15 more flatbed lorries were expected in coming days.
- IGas sites in Nottinghamshire and Cheshire are subject to an interim High Court injunction on protests (see DrillOrDrop report) This is due to be considered at a hearing in London next month.