Photos of tunnels, tree houses and vertical structures reveal the lengths to which anti-fracking protesters will go to stop an energy company clearing them from a field in Upton as today’s eviction deadline (Friday) approaches.
Upton Protection Camp residents and supporters have until 4pm today to vacate the Duttons Lane site where IGas has permission to drill an exploratory borehole in the search for coalbed methane.
Activists promise peaceful resistance whenever High Court bailiffs arrive but will make it as difficult as possible by using superglue and chains to lock themselves on to the site. And a photo of world famous fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, who returns to the camp for her third visit tomorrow (Saturday) , has been released showing her holding a bike lock.
Organisation TalkFracking.org will host an open workshop teaching practical direct action skills at the camp on Saturday at 12.30pm. And there are invitations on social media to what one person billed as the 'biggest party protest yet' this evening (Friday) with mention of chains and tree houses.
A spokesperson for Frack Free Dee said: “Having vowed to continue their fight, despite a High Court ruling for eviction from 4th December, Upton Community Protection Camp are now prepared to show how far they are willing to go to prevent exploratory drilling on the site. The Upton blockade continues to grow in numbers each day. It also now consists of tactically placed tree houses, towers and tunnels, defence tactics that have been seen in other high profile protest movements since the 90s.”
Neil Johnson, from Hoole , said: “We are left now with a situation where we must do whatever it takes to stop IGas from taking possession of this field. If that requires living in a tree house or a tunnel then so be it.”
Ron Winstanley, from West Kirby, said: “This is about all of our communities, not just Upton. One well here is just the beginning, they won’t stop until our whole region is a gas field covered with thousands of wells so that they can drain every last resource they can get their hands on.”
Leanne Hargreaves, from Chester , commented: “This may seem like desperation. It is. We are not doing this for fun, who’d want to spend days, weeks, months, living in a tunnel? I’ve never protested against anything before, it’s scary and overwhelming sometimes but it’s the only option left now.”
Due to time constraints, anti-fracking protesters suspect drilling will commence shortly after the eviction is completed. Although fracking company IGas have all permissions in place for exploratory drilling to take place, planning permission runs out in May 2016, strengthening campaigners’ resolve to remain on site.
Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is encouraging direct action in the light of a decision by secretary of state Greg Clark to intervene in an application by energy company Cuadrilla to drill for shale gas at two sites in Lancashire. He will now make the final decision rather than the matter being decided by an inspector at a planning appeal.
She said in a statement: “Now the democratic process has been overruled by (Secretary of State) Greg Clark in Lancashire, despite residents having won the decision not to frack; there is no other option left for the British public other than to take direct action to protect themselves from this fracking menace.”
Cllr Matt Bryan, who represents Upton ward on Cheshire West and Chester Council , said: “The camp is an integral part in protecting our community and as a borough and parish councillor I will continue to all I can to stop the progression of this unwanted industry both politically and as an activist.”
Peter Benson, Chester & District Friends of the Earth coordinator, commented: “People from all over the country are campaigning against fracking in every possible way.”
He added: “But as from this weekend the sharp end of the UK campaign is on this field in Upton with people who have already sacrificed so much to hold this land against the frackers and prepared to do so much more in the coming days. The very least the rest of us can do is come and show our total support; bear witness to what happens here and who knows, maybe join the front line ourselves.”
IGas spokesman David Petrie said earlier this week that ‘no decision’ had yet been taken over whether the eviction notice would be enforced with one theory IGas may try to work around the protest camp instead.
In a statement, he said: “We respect the right to peaceful protest however it has been made clear to the protesters they are on our site illegally and without consent. Having recently taken ownership of the lease for the site, we expect the protesters to cease occupation and leave peacefully.”