Fracking live: UK protests as they happened


– Updates by the RTCC team in London
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Latest headlines:
-Green MP and son arrested at Balcombe
-Six arrested at headquarters of Cuadrilla’s PR firm
-Protesters removed from Cuadrilla HQ in Lichfield

Protesters outside Cuadrilla HQ in Lichfield (Pic: Tom Youngman)

1708 – We’re wrapping up our live blog here for today. It’s been pretty eventful, with actions taking place across the country, culminating in the arrest of Green MP Caroline Lucas at the Balcombe blockade. The tension is definitely up a few notches from the tea and flapjacks atmosphere we reported on the first day. More tomorrow as and when it happens.

1648 – Caroline Lucas, the Green MP arrested today at the protests against fracking at Cuadrilla site in Balcombe, has released a statement regarding her arrest:

 “People today, myself included, took peaceful non-violent direct action only after exhausting every other means of protest available to us. I’m in the privileged position of being able to put questions to the Government directly and arrange debates in Parliament, but still ministers have refused to listen.

“Despite the opposition to fracking being abundantly clear, the Government has completely ignored the views of those they are supposed to represent.  When the democratic deficit is so enormous, people are left with very little option but to take peaceful, non-violent direct action.”

1633 – Here’s a copy of the letter delivered to Lord Howell by protesters:

Dear Lord Howell,

We write to inform you that as of today, 19th August 2013, your home has been designated as a desolate dwelling. Fracking will commence in 10 working days, following a public consultation, and regardless of its results.

Our democratic process has taken into account your submission stating that fracking should be confined to desolate and uninhabited areas of the North East (later North West). However, sufficient desolation has been discovered in your area on account of the absence of care for other people – especially those poorer than yourself – and the planet.

Under your soil our geologists have identified extensive reserves of both arrogance and ignorance which we regard as sufficient for sustainable, and above all profitable, exploitation of this site.

Your home is hereby For Shale and you are required to move out forthwith.

Yours faithfully,
Reclaim The Power

1628 – Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom, of recent Bongo Bongo land fame, has emphatically not declared his support for Caroline Lucas, who has just been arrested for blockading the Cuadrilla site at Balcombe.

1600 – Protesters target Lord Howell’s London house, putting it up “for shale”. Lord Howell recently came under fire for suggesting that the “desolate” north East could be a prime location for fracking.

Pic: Guy Shrubsole

1533 – Caroline Lucas, the UK’s only Green Party MP, has been arrested, and waits in police van.

Pic: No Dash For Gas

1526 – Caroline Lucas has been forcibly removed from Balcombe by the police.

1523 – Caroline Lucas has been read her rights by police. Her son has already been taken away by the police.

1521 – Police are dragging people away from the entrance to the Balcombe site, and it looks like Caroline Lucas could be next…

1448 – The view from within: police in the Bell Pottinger foyer. Photo from Charlie Ashford.

1441 – Six people have been arrested in total from the Bell Pottinger protest site in Holborn, London.

1437 – The Conservative MPs who support shale gas exploitation have tended to focus on the regulatory strength of the UK system, which they say will prevent it become an environmental hazard. Cameron wrote:

“…the regulatory system in this country is one of the most stringent in the world. If any shale gas well were to pose a risk of pollution, then we have all the powers we need to close it down.”

But not Douglas Carswell, Conservative MP for Clacton. He wrote in the Telegraph yesterday that fracking protesters are the “new Luddites”, and it was the overregulation of the technology that was preventing it from being successfully exploited. Comparing the regulation to the hypothetical banning of the water wheel at the dawn on the industrial revolution, he wrote:

“The state stands by, regulating every aspect of the new technology, but doing little to guarantee the freedoms of the innovators.

“Tim Yeo yesterday suggested that we are better at regulating shale gas here in Britain than they are in America. Indeed. Which is why right now we have no shale industry to speak of. In the US, meanwhile, where they are so “cavalier”  about these things, shale gas revolution has cut energy costs dramatically, triggering a wider industrial revival.

“It would be tragic if we let the looters and the moochers get in the way of shale gas technology.”

1409 – Events are heating up in Balcombe according to reports from protesters, with the police getting more heavily involved.




1400 – The police have started handing out Section 14 letters at the Balcombe protest site. Under Section 14 of the 1986 Public Order Act, a senior police officer may impose certain limitations on a protest.

“He may give directions imposing on the persons organising or taking part in the assembly such conditions as to the place at which the assembly may be (or continue to be) held, its maximum duration, or the maximum number of persons who may constitute it, as appear to him necessary to prevent such disorder, damage, disruption or intimidation.”Public Order Act 1986

1346 – Caroline Lucas is still at the front line of the protests in Balcombe.

1340 – Here is Cuadrilla’s response to the actions of the protesters:

“Protesters broke into our Lichfield office, harassed our staff and chained themselves to filing cabinets. The police are on site dealing with this. We condemn all illegal direct actions against our people and operations.

“Despite the stresses, the morale of our people in Lichfield, Balcombe and elsewhere is fine. Our people, and the teams that support us are doing a magnificent job. They know that what we are doing is legal, approved, and safe, and that shale gas is essential to improve our energy security, heat our homes, and create jobs and growth.

“Cuadrilla is rightly held accountable for complying with multiple planning and environmental permits and conditions, which we have met and will continue to meet. Clearly we are held to one set of legally enforceable standards while some protesters believe that they can set out and follow their own.”

1325 – Things look like they are wrapping up outside the Bell Pottinger HQ in Holborn. The activists who superglued themselves to the building have now been released.

1318 – We spoke to Barry Gardiner MP, the Shadow Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries about what he thought of the spreading protests. He said, “I think it is absolutely people’s right to take direct action, to make protest. Some of the great social changes have been built upon that, and I applaud people for taking action.” He also added that the protesters should be “absolutely clear” about their reasons for protesting.

Shale gas, he said, could have a role as a transition fuel, but if the government continues with its “grandfathering of gas fired power stations” that it would be impossible for the UK to reach its carbon targets.

1238 – All the activists at the Lichfield site have now left the Cuadrilla Headquarters, having had their D locks cut by the police. One has been arrested. The building is still blockaded by protesters.

1211 – Legal advice and coffee is being distributed to protesters and those who have been arrested by grassroots legal support group Green & Black Cross. They claim that Sussex police have been preventing them handing out legal advice support cards at Balcombe train station, although the police have denied that this is the case.

1200 – Some footage of protesters in Holborn supergluing themselves to the Bell Pottinger HQ.

1145 – Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton, is in the police kettle outside the Cuadrilla rig in Balcombe. According to No Dash for Gas, she has said that she is prepared to be arrested. “At this critical moment for the UK’s energy policy, Osborne’s gas strategy looks like nothing short of a disaster – for the economy, the environment and for people’s energy bills,” she says on her website.

1136 – It seems the police are displaying a little more personality from their carefully objective approach when I went to the Balcombe protests on the first day

1125 – Police have sneaked a bolt cutter into the Cuadrilla HQ in Lichfield, but the protesters who entered the building earlier this morning have yet to emerge.

1123 – You can now watch the latest chants from protesters live outside the Bell Pottinger building in Holborn, London. They have just finished shouting “Bell Pottinger, shame on you.” Earlier today, the campaigners were using a sound system to play an undercover recording in which a Bell Pottinger employee admits the company’s pro-fracking message “sounds like utter fucking bullshit”.

1112 – At the drilling site in Balcombe, three disabled people have blocked the main gate giving access to the site, along with two able bodied activists. Four activists used D locks and superglue to attach themselves to an activist’s wheelchair. The action was organised by campaigning group Disabled People Against the Cuts.

1106 – Cuadrilla staff were forced to leave their offices in Lichfield this morning, when activists entered the building and locked themselves in using D locks as security left the building to inquire about the banners that protesters were putting up.

1052 – Not everyone is lending their support to the growing protests against fracking. A leader article in the Times today says that, if the activists claim a victory in Balcombe “it would be a victory for propaganda over feeble policing, the rule of law, common sense, scientific evidence and the kind of forward-looking energy policy that Britain sorely needs.”

1045 – As well as protesting outside Cuadrilla HQs in London and Lichfield, protesters left a little present for Francis Maude MP outside his office – a wind turbine blade. Maude, who represents Balcombe, has been accused of not standing up for residents against the threat of fracking in the area.

1033 – The No Dash for Gas camp started on Friday in Balcombe. They made a video of the camp setting up.

1021 – Camilla Born from Reclaim the Power is at the Lichfield site, where she says there are about 20 people at the moment, with more groups expected to arrive from Birmingham soon. She says, “We are trying to impose on Cuadrilla as they impose on us” and emphasises that, while the protests are now spreading, it is still a movement of local communities.

1008 – Outside the Cuadrilla HQ in Holborn, protests started at 8am, when six activists superglued themselves to the glass door – a technique which led to the arrest of Natalie Hynde,  the daughter of The Pretenders’ singer Chrissie Hynde and The Kinks’ Ray Davies, earlier on at the protests in Balcombe.

1000 – Activists from No Dash for Gas have been training for the action camp at Balcombe, including learning how to use metal tripods to scale heights, according to the BBC. The group has been forming top secret “civil disobedience plans” and trespass looks likely. Cuadrilla has put the site into lockdown mode.

0940 – More banners outside Cuadrilla’s head office in Lichfield, which protesters shut down about an hour ago.

0925 – Today the protests spread from Balcome to London and Lichfield, where Cuadrilla’s HQ is based. Protestors unvelied this banner outside the offices of Bell Pottinger – the PR firm working for Cuadrilla

0920 – So what’s this all about? Protests against fracking at a site in the south of England started at the end of July – you can read my report on that here. Last week the drilling company Cuadrilla suggested they could stop searching for oil and gas, but that didn’t stop thousands heading down at the weekend to take part in a wider protest against fossil fuel exploration in the UK.

0910 – I’m Sophie Yeo, and welcome to RTCC’s live blog. Anti-fracking activists say Monday 19 August will be a ‘day of action’ aimed at highlighting what they say are the dangerous consequences of drilling for shale gas and oil in the UK. If you’re taking part in the protests (or disagree with those taking part) I’d love to hear from you. Email me at [email protected] or send me a Tweet @rtcc_sophie

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