Battle lines are drawn as anti-fracking campaigners gear up for a confrontation with an energy company who can legally move in to clear their protest camp from Friday onwards.
People living on Upton Protection Camp hope to be joined by fashion designer Vivienne Westwood – back for her third visit this Saturday – along with local residents and activists from across the country.
Seasoned campaigners and people with no previous experience of direct action will use superglue and chains to lock themselves on to the site, where IGas has permission to drill an exploratory borehole in the search for coalbed methane.
There will be a peaceful show of resistance when bailiffs move on site any time after the 4pm Friday deadline.
Camp resident Dr Steven Peers said: “Members of the public have come down and said ‘What do I do if I’m arrested?’, so locals are prepared to get arrested for this.”
He said there was a feeling of tension in the air but the camp had survived the weekend’s storms, which brought down a tree just missing camp residents, and the fight would continue even if the encampment had to move nearby.
In a message to Chester, Dr Peers, a father-of-six, said: “We need local support. These battles are going to be won by local people defending local properties and stopping the poisonous nature of this fracking coming to their neighbourhood. It’s their children they need to be concerned about.
“If they let their children be poisoned and let the land be poisoned, they are just going to leave a toxic environment for future generations. We need to stop this now.”
Stressing the peaceful nature of any actions, he added: “There will be peaceful resistance. There will be no violence from our side.”
In preparation for the eviction, the protesters have created a wooden fortress around their shacks using pallets as walls, together with tree houses and tunnels.
“There have been some big rabbits around!” joked supporter Colin Gong who has driven up from Kent with his wife Olive in their motor home to support the camp in its hour of need.
He added: “It’s imperative we nip this in the bud because once it starts you can’t stop it. In Australia, a coalbed methane site of this nature would have a buffer zone. It’s not allowed to happen within 2km of human habitation. Yet within a mile of this site – I think it’s 1.4km – there are 3,000 school children. So it’s really quite shocking but that’s the nature of our population density.”
Olive commented: “It’s such a wonderful thing to get involved in. It’s so empowering to actually make a difference to something important and an amazing experience to be out in nature.”
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.”
■ An anti-fracking public meeting takes place this evening (Wednesday December 2), entitled ‘What will fracking bring to your community?’, at the United Services Club, Crook Street, Chester, from 7.30pm.