Row over early hours convoy of 26 trucks to Cuadrilla's fracking site in Lancashire

Cuadrilla's fracking equipment at Preston New Road last autumn
Cuadrilla's fracking equipment at Preston New Road last autumn

Anti-fracking campaigners say they are going to make official complaints over the police operation to help shale gas firm Cuadrilla get its equipment onto the Preston New Road drill site.

Cuadrilla has announced it would resume fracking at the site near Little Plumpton sometime from August onwards and on Monday a convoy of equipment was taken onto the site in an early morning operation.

But opponents say the delivery was outside of the normal delivery hours agreed for the site and they allege that police officers were heavy handed in preventing campaigners near the site from protesting against the deliveries.

Four people were arrested. Two Blackpool women, aged 26 and 36, were arrested for assault on an emergency services worker and obstructing a police constable.

A man, 22, from Preston, was arrested for obstructing a police constable and a woman from Preston, aged 21, was arrested for a public order offence.

Campaigner Claire Stephenson said: “Once again, we’ve seen gratuitous violence and aggression from Lancashire Police in order to facilitate a private company’s deliveries. During the night, 26 HGVs entered Cuadrilla’s site in a convoy, from the A583, Preston end, instead of the permitted motorway route.

“Campaigners were pushed into bushes and restrained whilst the police closed the road both ways to help Cuadrilla get their kit on site. One woman needlessly arrested yesterday, was restrained with a wrist lock on the floor, and is currently at hospital before making a full complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

“Cuadrilla do not yet have permission to proceed with fracking at PNR2 as their interpretation of the geology is currently under legal challenge by Preston New Road Action Group against the Environment Agency.”

But Cuadrilla said the early morning move was to prevent any disruption to traffic and residents, as has happened in the past when protesters climbed on wagons causing tailbacks outside its flagship Lancashire site.

A statement said that the early morning convoy delivery was in line with existing planning permission, and was "designed to minimise disruption to everyone using Preston New Road."

Laura Hughes, projects and operations director at Cuadrilla, said she was delighted with progress made since the business announced its latest work programme to hydraulically fracture a second well.

She said: “A range of specialist equipment has now been safely and effectively mobilised onto site. This was intensely managed by the operational team at Cuadrilla to ensure safety – not only for our own team but also other users of Preston New Road. I’m pleased to say the remobilisation was carried out without incident or inconvenience to our neighbours.”

Cuadrilla confirmed earlier this month that it will return to hydraulic fracturing and flow testing of natural gas at Preston New Road in the third quarter of 2019 and, subject to all required regulatory approvals, complete the work programme by the end of November.

It added that the upcoming work programme at Preston New Road was the latest step in demonstrating the huge commercial opportunity of natural gas from UK shale, including the potential for natural gas from shale to act as a domestic feedstock for hydrogen production.

The business group which supports the development of a shale gas industry across Lancashire, Lancashire For Shale, said the delivery of the fracking equipment, without any disruption to local people, businesses and commuters, was testament to Cuadrilla’s commitment to being a good neighbour and a sure sign that it remains serious about shale.

He said: “In recent months, there has been endless speculation in some quarters that suggested Cuadrilla had given-up on its ambitions in Lancashire. Today’s remobilisation of fracking equipment shows this is not the case and that it remains committed to producing natural gas here whilst creating jobs and supply chain opportunities.”