The policing operation outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site has ended, Lancashire Constabulary has confirmed.
Operation Manila began in January 2017 when Cuadrilla started construction work at the site near Blackpool, attracting near daily protests.
A police spokesperson said today there had been no policing operation at the site since 2 December 2019.
During the operation, officers made more than 400 arrests outside the site, where Cuadrilla drilled and partially fracked two shale gas wells.
Anti-fracking campaigners often criticised police tactics at Preston New Road. Officers were accused of failing to balance the right to protest with Cuadrilla’s right to operate its business. There were also complaints that the policing operation was heavy-handed and inconsistent.
The policing operation was scaled back during the autumn of 2019.
Fracking was suspended on 26 August 2019 after the operation induced a 2.9ML earth tremor, felt across the area.
Later, in November 2019, the government announced an immediate moratorium on fracking throughout England.
This month, Cuadrilla reportedly told local representatives it had “no immediate plans” for Preston New Road but that it was “not giving up” on the site. Both wells, PNR1z and PNR2, have been suspended. PNR1z has been plugged. A pressure test is underway on PNR2.
Police officers did not attend the January meeting of the site’s community liaison group or send a report. The 50mph speed limit on Preston New Road has been reinstated.
Arrests and charges
In the two years of Operation Manila, Lancashire Police data shows that officers made 444 arrests, resulting in 434 charges.
Most of the arrests were in 2017, with only 9 in 2019.
According to the data, just over half the arrests (226) were for allegedly obstructing the highway. About 15% (69) were for allegedly obstructing police.
The Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner revealed last year that less than half the arrests had ended in convictions. DrillOrDrop report
In correspondence with an anti-fracking campaigner, the PCC said there had been a total of 220 convictions arising from protests between January 2017 and December 2018. At the time, this was 49% of arrests and 51% of charges. The rate may have risen since then because some 2019 arrests had not then gone to court.
The cost of Operation Manila stands at £11.75m. This includes data up to June 2019.
Based on these figures, almost 20% of the total cost was in July-September 2017. This period coincided with the arrival of the drilling rig, the spudding of the first well and the eviction of a roadside camp.
In December 2017, Lancashire Police Federation said Operation Manila had placed “a huge strain on policing, particularly earlier in the year”.
The PCC said the Home Office has paid 85% of the costs for 2017-2018 and £5.9m for 2018-2019. A further claim would be submitted for 2019-2020.