A High Court judge has imposed an interim injunction preventing anyone from trespassing on land previously occupied by anti-fracking protesters.
Following a hearing at Manchester High Court yesterday, temporarily adjourned after the defence requested more time, the interim injunction was granted preventing occupation of land around a site earmarked by Cuadrilla Resources for shale gas exploration and drilling, at Little Plumpton.
The claim was served by Cuadrilla Resources in conjunction with local farmers, following fears protesters may return to land off Preston New Road, where they camped for three weeks, leaving on Tuesday, as the decision on fracking applications is discussed by Lancashire County Council in November.
Tom Roscoe, a solicitor representing the claimants, told the hearing: “As the deadline looms the appetite for these kinds of protests may increase.”
Judge Hodge QC granted an adjournment requested by the defence, to allow more time for them to formulate a response, saying they had had no time to study papers served to them on August 21 due to the bank holiday weekend.
The counsel also granted an interim injunction banning any campaigners or protesters from “entering or remaining on, or obstructing, impeding or otherwise prohibiting the work of owners or workers of the land” in connection with “anti-fracking, environmental or similar events”.
And he ordered for an advert notifying the public of the injunction be placed not only in local media but also the national press, in order that any would-be protesters are aware they would be in contempt of court should they breach the injunction.
He also made a declaration that the claimants were “clearly entitled” to the land in question.
However he said he had “troubles” with the claimants’ solicitors initial appeal for “the world at large” to be banned by the injunction indefinitely.
Despite the interim injunction, anti-fracking protesters, led by Tina Rothery, the defendant in the case, celebrated the hearing.
Ms Rothery said: “I was grateful to hear the court say they respect our right to protest and I’m grateful to the court for the adjournment.”
The order will now be reviewed on October 8, following a request from anti-fracking campaigners for more time to review the papers served to them.
Simon Pook, representing the defendants, said no challenge would be made on their entitlement to the land. A group of activists had been camping at a site off Preston New Road, near Westby, since August 7.
Cuadrilla and farmers claim the camp has affected business for the landowners and the court heard some hazard tape and bike locks holding gates closed remained on the site.
Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said: “We welcome the judge’s verdict to uphold the claim against illegal trespass on local farmland and we were pleased to support the landowners in these legal proceedings.
“We hope the court’s ruling will help deter this kind of unlawful behaviour in the future, which has already had a detrimental impact on a local farmer’s business.”
Cuadrilla has submitted a planning application to Lancashire County Council for exploration at sites in Roseacre and Little Plumpton, on the Fylde coast, and the decision is expected to be made in November this year.
The process of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves blasting shale rocks with a mixture of water, sand and chemicals in order to release gas or oil.