I have just returned from a visit to Cuadrilla’s fracking site on Preston New Road, near Blackpool. The event was for local councillors, or potential councillors to gain an impression of the scale of the work being undertaken. The trip was very well organised by @teamfrackfree with a double decker bus laid on so that we could have a clear view of the site as we drove slowly up the road.
One of the things that was mentioned a number of times was that the ‘pad’ being constructed was one of the largest in the world. Perhaps it comes from living more or less in the shadow of two nuclear power stations, but it wasn’t the size of the site itself that I found disturbing, but the scale of the police presence, both physically and psychologically.
It was clear from the moment I stepped out the car at Maple Farm nursery that all protesters’ activities are being closely monitored. Within minutes one police officer had turned up to ask questions about the bus runs, police vehicles were passing by every few minutes and as soon as the bus arrived another officer appeared to speak to the driver.
At the site there is a heavy police presence, with at the time three police vans and a couple of police cars. This was in response to about half a dozen protesters. After I had completed my visit, and as I was waiting to pull out of the nursery car park I saw a number of vehicles coming slowly down the road towards the site. As I passed them I realised it was a convoy, led by a police car and a police van, comprising about five trucks that appeared to be carrying something like quarried stone, and followed by another police van and two more police cars. The level of protection seemed more in line with a nuclear fuel convoy than several truck loads of hardcore.
The effect of such a such a heavy presence is obviously meant to be intimidating and it is. Perhaps most telling were the words of one local parish councillor who reported that she was the only member of her council who had agreed to come on the visit, with other members raising concerns about getting caught up in some kind of political action or conflict with the police. Those concerns were completely unfounded but the fact that democratically elected representatives were deterred from viewing the site from a public carriageway speaks volumes.
I assume that the cost of such extensive policing is being funded by Cuadrilla, and of course ultimately by British Gas, who I learned are bankrolling them to the tune of many millions. But then if you carry out business that is in direct opposition to the people who live close by and against the decision of the democratically elected local authorities I guess you must feel somewhat insecure.