16 protesters who blocked fracking in Lancashire face court today

A further 80 people await trial for disrupting Cuadrilla's fracking operations at Preston New Road.

Sixteen anti-fracking protesters will appear in Blackpool magistrate’s court today charged over ongoing anti-fracking protests in Lancashire.

The group, charged with obstructing a highway and preventing workers from lawfully entering the fracking site, are the first of nearly 100 arrested over the past month who await court hearings.

Those appearing in court include Green councillor Gina Dowding and a 73-year-old grandmother, Gillian Kelly, who joined the protest with other members of her family, as we reported in July.

Local residents, with campaign group Reclaim the Power, disrupted activities at the fracking site on Preston New Road, which is set to be the UK’s first operational drilling rig, throughout July.

Protesters claim they’ve halted operations at the site on over twenty separate days in July.

This local-led protest can be better understood within context of how fracking was given the green light in Lancashire to begin with.

Lancashire county council threw out plans by fracking company Cuardrilla for Preston New Road in 2015 — but the council were overruled by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, who approved the plans a year later.

County Councillor Gina Dowding, who’s due in court today, at the Preston New Road fracking site in July

The protests have occurred at the same time as public support for fracking has hit an all-time low.

Backing for shale gas drilling has fallen from 19% in March/April to a record low of 16% now, while those actively opposed to fracking has risen from 30% to 33% in the same time.

Nick Danby, one of those appearing in court today, spoke of blocking the fracking site being a last resort after all other means of dissent had failed.

“I signed petitions, I wrote to my councillors, I wrote to my MP and I spoke at a Public Inquiry but none of that achieved anything. The government repeatedly ignored my voice so I was left with a simple choice of walking away or continuing to fight for what I believe in.”

Said Mr Danby, who went on:

“I am very sad that I have ended up in court but I feel that I was left with very little choice. It is important that local democracy should be upheld.”

As we reported last week, if local protests like those at Preston New Road in Lancashire continue, fracking may not have a future in the UK.

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