People monitoring drilling at Rathlin Energy’s East Yorkshire well site are fighting a council threat of eviction to a road-side camp.
The group, which began round-the-clock monitoring earlier this month, said the camp outside the West Newton-A site was necessary to identify any breaches of permissions or regulations.
But East Riding of Yorkshire Council said the camp must go within a month or it will take enforcement action.
Paul Bellotti, the council’s director of environment and neighbourhood services, said today:
“We have advised the protesters that, whilst we do not seek to obstruct or deny their democratic right to protest, we are concerned about safety issues of the encampment with regards to visibility and their proximity to a public highway contributing to safety concerns for both the protesters and highways users.
“We have requested the protesters to remove all the caravans, tents and wooden structures and other items deposited on the highway verges within a month.
“We have requested confirmation that the existing structures and other items will be removed from the highway verges. If the structures and other items are not removed, the council may itself remove the structures and items at a future time and recover the cost of so doing from the protesters.
“The council may also seek a disposal order to dispose of the structures and items if necessary.”
The monitoring group said it set up its project following breaches of environmental permit conditions by Rathlin Energy at the site during flow testing in 2014.
Deliveries began in December 2018 and the conductor rig is drilling the first section of the site’s second well.
Local people have supported the monitoring project. Harry Clark, one of the residents living closest to the site, opposed a recent planning application for more time to drill at West Newton. He said:
“Local opinion is that the people who are here and observing and reporting back on what is happening on this site should be allowed to stay. We get to know what a great deal about what happens here and I think we need the site to be monitored.”
Another resident was quoted by East Yorkshire Frack Free as saying:
“We are all aware of how important it is to monitor activities on the West Newton well site. Without the presence of the Monitors our knowledge of what happens there will be very scant indeed.”
Andy Walker, a Yorkshire Party candidate in council elections this year, wrote to complain about the eviction notice:
“I have watched the story of Rathlin Energy at West Newton unfold over half a decade and it is clear that many documented breaches of licence conditions have occurred. I understand that East Riding of Yorkshire Council and the Environment Agency have neither the funds nor the staff to monitor what occurs at that site each day but it is clear that someone must.
“There have been documented, evidenced breaches within the last month and it is reckless to remove the only effective monitoring by seeking to evict those evidence gatherers. I will work to overturn the eviction order and look forward to the day when publicly funded, professional monitoring renders this heroic effort unnecessary – or we decide to leave fossil fuels in the ground.”
Frack Free East Yorkshire is urging people to write to the council in support of the monitoring project.