Labour councillor Matt Bryan is among nine activists appearing before Chester magistrates tomorrow (Wednesday, February 24) charged with various offences in connection with last month’s eviction of the anti-fracking camp in Upton.
Cllr Bryan, who represents Upton on Cheshire West and Chester Council, is believed to have been apprehended after he allegedly climbed on top of a cherry picker about to be used as part of the clearance operation by bailiffs supported by police.
An environmentalist and staunch opponent of unconventional gas extraction, the councillor had opposed IGas’ plan to drill an exploratory coal bed methane well at a site in Duttons Lane, Upton, where the protest camp had been in place since April 2014.
But in a strange twist, IGas abandoned its plans for CBM exploration wells at Upton and Mickle Trafford just three weeks after the eviction had taken place – an operation estimated to have racked up a £200,000 bill in policing costs alone.
Cllr Bryan, 29, of Kings Crescent West, Chester, was charged with obstructing/resisting a constable in the execution of their duty but will plead not guilty and understands his eight fellow defendants will do likewise at what will be the first hearing for all but one.
He told The Chronicle: “It should be pretty straightforward. I think everyone is pleading not guilty and then it is likely to come back to court later in the year, possibly November.”
He expects up to 20 anti-fracking campaigners could attend court in solidarity. Supporters gathered outside Blacon Custody Suite when the nine campaigners were initially arrested and subsequently charged.
Stephen Anthony Allen, 46, of no fixed abode, is charged with aggravated trespass and resisting an enforcement officer and remanded into custody. He appeared before Chester Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, January 13 and is back tomorrow.
Other defendants are: Isabelle Amelia Bish, 28, of Hambledon Road, Denmead, Hampshire, charged with resisting/obstructing an enforcement officer; John Thomas Hall, 50, of no fixed abode, charged with obstructing/resisting a constable in the execution of their duty; Lanner Davis, 23, of no fixed abode, charged with resisting/obstructing an enforcement officer; Richard Edward Cairnes, 41, of no fixed abode, charged with failing to comply with a section 35 direction excluding a person from an area; Jamie Douglas Watson, 33, of Belmont Avenue, Ayr, charged with resisting/obstructing an enforcement officer; Louise Hammond, 52, of Cedar Avenue, Scunthorpe, charged with resisting/obstructing an enforcement officer and Richard Burcumshaw, 64, of Oxford Grove, Bolton, charged with assaulting a constable in the execution of his/her duty and section 5 public order.