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Eviction of Upton anti-fracking camp is complete

Police confirm 10 arrests at the end of a day of peaceful resistance

David Holmes Demonstrators from Frack Free Upton at the entrance to Duttons Lane which has been blocked by police
Demonstrators from Frack Free Upton at the entrance to Duttons Lane which was blocked by police

The struggle to stop an energy company sinking an exploratory gas well on the outskirts of Chester is over.

All protesters have now been evicted by bailiffs at the proposed test drill site in Duttons Lane, Upton , following a seven-hour operation which began in earnest at just before 10am this morning (Tuesday, January 12).

Campaigners fear IGas’s intention to drill an exploratory coalbed methane may lead to a full scale production operation, dubbed ‘fracking’ , raising concerns about the impact on the environment.

Re-read: Our live blog which followed today's developments in Upton

Leaseholders IGas gained an eviction order at the High Court at the end of last year when protesters failed to move of their own accord.

The company decided to enforce the notice through the use of bailiffs, supported by a huge policing operation, leading to 10 arrests.

Cheshire Police said in a statement this evening: "Following the issuing of a High Court writ at the protest camp on Duttons Lane in Upton, near Chester, High Court enforcement officers have now removed all the protesters from the protest camp.

"Officers have worked with the local community to minimise any impact in the Upton area and local beat officers continue to address any issues being raised by the local community.

"Over the period that the land has been occupied by the protesters, structures, tunnels and fortifications have appeared on the site which has made the eviction process difficult.

"Duttons Lane will remain closed overnight and Cheshire police have now closed Acres Lane to vehicles to ensure the safety of members of the public who are using the road to access Duttons Lane.

"Police officers will keep a visible presence at the location overnight and High Court enforcement officers will remain on the site. Nobody was injured or taken to hospital during the eviction, and currently 20-30 people remain on Dutton Lane protesting."

"Cheshire Constabulary would like to thank local people for their patience today and will continue to do what is necessary to minimise disruption to local residents and balance the lawful rights of people who want to peaceful protest, with the rights of those who need to go about their daily business which includes the High Court enforcement officers."

Activists employed what appeared to be non-violent forms of resistance during the course of the day with most arrests relating to various forms of obstruction. More than 20 dispersal notices were also issued ordering people to leave the area for a set period.

David Holmes Protesters refuse to budge from their tower at the entrance to the anti-fracking camp in Duttons Lane, Upton
Protesters refused to budge from their tower at the entrance to the anti-fracking camp in Duttons Lane, Upton

Cat and mouse games were played between campaigners and bailiffs all day long.

One woman apparently locked herself onto a concrete block at the entrance to the site with bailiffs forced to use power tools to release her. Other campaigners went underground in tunnels and pits. A few protesters carried out high level demonstrations by attaching themselves to precarious-looking towers.

There were reports of some militants even putting ropes around their necks attached to these structures as a deterrent against bailiffs making any rash moves.

This activist said he was determined not to come down from his precarious-looking tower at the Upton anti-fracking camp.

One protester, who wished only to be known as ‘Darren’, from Hoole, told The Chronicle he was unhappy at the huge scale of the operation to remove his comrades involving, according to his estimates, between 30-40 bailiffs and ‘hundreds of police’.

He said: “I’m here representing the local community to try and stop the fracking going ahead in the fields by Upton. It was expected (the eviction), but I can’t believe the scale of it. The amount of police, police vans, helicopters, bailiffs is outrageous for the number of peaceful protesters here.”

Darren accepted police had been ‘reasonable’ in their conduct but the numbers were ‘over the top’ and it was the cost to the tax payer that upset him most.

Assistant Cheshire Chief Constable Mark Roberts was interviewed by the media close to the eviction operation at Upton anti-fracking camp

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Roberts, of Cheshire Police, reckoned there had been about 20 protesters on site but numbers had fluctuated throughout the day. He described the policing of the event as ‘significant’ during an operation that involved ‘trying to balance competing demands’ but with safety paramount in his mind.

He said: “We are under an obligation to support the High Court in its order and the bailiffs; we are under an obligation to facilitate protest; we want to minimise the disruption to the local people here in Upton who are going to here long after the protest and the company have moved on. And the company itself has a right to go about its lawful business.

“Just on a reading of those various aims you will accept that some of them are mutually competing. We can’t keep everyone happy, ours is a balancing act to try and make sure we do whatever we can to meet those aims as far as we can but with the overriding factor that we need to keep people safe.”

David Holmes
There were traffic delays when a protester attached himself to a digger on the back of a low loader on the A41 Long Lane

Locals held a demonstration at the A41 end of Duttons Lane as the lane itself, leading to the anti-fracking camp, was blocked by police. At one stage a protester locked on to a digger aboard a low loader in the same area causing it to stop in its tracks. Traffic had to be allowed past in one direction at a time causing congestion.

Some of the day’s events have been captured on video for BBC1’s The One Show for a package that will be broadcast next week. The heated scenes witnessed in Upton may not be the usual fare for the family show but reporter Trish Adudu joked they could use ‘cheerful music’ under the footage.

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