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Anti-fracking protestors in court

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New Preston Road, anti-fracking campaign, Reclaim the Power, July, Lancashire, blockade court cases, Cuadrilla, ‘I can’t sit idly and watch the place I was born and raised be poisoned and polluted by fracking’.

Eighteen people appeared in court earlier this week for taking action to halt operations at Cuadrilla’s controversial fracking site at Preston New Road in Lancashire.

Five of the six who were in Blackpool Magistrates court were released with unconditional bail on the 2 charges against them.

They all pleaded not guilty to 1. Obstructing the highway 2. under the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, and are now to appear for trial on 13 November.

They then returned to Preston New Road – only to witness about 10 police vans and 6 police cars, (minimum) and about 40 police officers close the road to let in 2 flatbed trucks to the site.

So the tax-payer-financed police escort for Cuadrilla continues.

The appearances at this plea hearing are the first of almost 100 arrests made during a month-long ‘rolling resistance’ organised by Reclaim the Power, which collectively disrupted operations at Cuadrilla every working day of July.

Mass demos also took place every Friday in July, regularly drawing hundreds of people who object to the destruction of the UK countryside and the pollution our air and water.

The month of resistance was undertaken to support the local community efforts against fracking which have been going on at the site since January 2017.

Actions included ‘lock-on’ blockades at the gates and climbing onto delivery lorries.

Among those who took part were five women from Leeds who were locked on to devices across the front entrance of the site to disrupt work for the day in order to call for an end to fossil fuel extraction and for development of renewables.

The women said the other reason they had travelled to the Preston New Road site was for fear of the impact on Leeds’s water supplies and waste water treatment facilities after they discovered that waste water from the Cuadrilla site would be travelling to the Knostrop treatment works in Leeds.

Coralie Datta said: “In countries where fracking is already happened there are repeat cases of water contamination, both in the ground and during the treatment process.

“The process of treating post-fracking water in the UK is unknown, but Leeds’s Knostrop treatement works is one of the few sites in the UK that has been designated to take fracked water and that is a huge concern to me.”

Concerns around fracking waste water have existed since Cuadrilla discharged two million gallons into the Manchester Ship Canal after being processed at the Davyhulme treatment works in Trafford in 2014.

This week’s court cases came just after complaints that fracking company Cuadrilla continues to breach planning conditions by bringing in convoys of vehicles outside the permitted hours.

Ash Hewitson, from Reclaim the Power, said local people were facing criminal records for their protests while Cuadrilla is going unpunished for breaches of planning conditions and bringing in drill equipment overnight.

“This shows once again how the system favours the industry and dismisses the local community’s democratic decision to say no and national opposition,” Hewitson said.

What the court cases show, Hewitson continued, is the lengths that local people are prepared to go to protect their environment and collective futures, adding: “The protests have had significant impact in disrupting and delaying the industry, and as Cuadrilla desperately tries to push forward, people will continue to fight back.”

Among those appearing in court were Lancashire County Councillor Gina Dowding, Nick Danby, an ex-civil servant, and 3 generations of the same family.

Gillian Kelly, a 73 year-old local, locked herself across the fracking site entrance with her partner Paul, her son Sebastian, 48, and her granddaughter Megan, 19.

Gillian Kelly said: “I’ve never done anything like this before, but I can’t sit idly and watch the place I was born and raised be poisoned and polluted by fracking.

“I feel now I’ve got to make a stand.

“This will affect my whole family and their futures; my sons, my grandchildren – and that’s why we’re taking action together as a family today.”

Nick Danby, a local resident who appeared in court, said: “I signed petitions, I wrote to my councillors, I wrote to my MP and I spoke at a Public Inquiry, but none of that achieved anything.

“The government repeatedly ignored my voice so I was left with a simple choice of walking away or continuing to fight for what I believe in.

“I chose to continue the fight in the only way left to me – non-violent direct action.

“I am very sad that I have ended up in court but I feel that I was left with very little choice.

“It is important that local democracy should be upheld.”

And Lancashire County Councillor Gina Dowding said: “It’s abundantly clear that when it comes to fracking, local councils have been rendered weak and helpless.

“I felt I need to be here with the community to say that we won’t roll over and accept this.

“We put our bodies on the line because our voices haven’t been heard.”

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