Three Lancaster women arrested after fracking site ‘lock on’

Picture by Julian Brown 14/08/17



Fracking rig construction site, Preston New Road, Little Plumpton
Picture by Julian Brown 14/08/17 Fracking rig construction site, Preston New Road, Little Plumpton

A Lancaster councillor has spoken out after becoming the second city politician to be arrested following protests at a controversial fracking site.

Former deputy mayor Coun Caroline Jackson and two other women from Lancaster were charged with wilfully obstructing a public highway after the trio locked themselves together at the site.

They arrived outside energy company Cuadrilla’s drilling rig at Preston New Road with a boat called Fracky McFrackface to highlight the connection between fracking, greenhouse gases and rising sea levels.

Fellow Green, Lancashire county councillor Gina Dowding, also attended the site with Coun Jackson, despite being arrested there herself in July.

Coun Jackson remained defiant following her arrest, saying she was “very concerned about our grandchildren’s future”.

The former headteacher said she was “upset and frustrated” about a lack of democracy following her arrest at the site on Tuesday August 30.

Coun Caroline Jackson, Mollie Foxall, County Coun Gina Dowding and Coun Emily Heath with Frack McFrackface

Coun Caroline Jackson, Mollie Foxall, County Coun Gina Dowding and Coun Emily Heath with Frack McFrackface

But she said her subsequent charge for wilfully obstructing a public highway was worth it as she was “very concerned about our grandchildrens’ future”.

Coun Jackson, along with former city coun Emily Heath, a lecturer in earth sciences at Lancaster University, and retired NHS manager Mollie Foxhall, were surrounded by police after ‘locking on’ at the fracking site on the Fylde on Tuesday August 30. The trio were subsequently arrested and taken to Blackpool Police Station.

Coun Jackson, who also volunteers as a Street Pastor in Lancaster, said: “We had no intention of obstructing the highway, which is why I’ll be pleading not guilty to the charge.

“We wished to go and sit across the entrance to the site, but the police stopped us on the reservation in the middle of the road.

Police surround Coun Caroline Jackson outside Cuadrilla's fracking site in Preston New Road.

Police surround Coun Caroline Jackson outside Cuadrilla's fracking site in Preston New Road.

“We were surrounded by many officers, and we were there for about an hour and a half.

“Eventually they brought an angle grinder and they cut the locks off us.

“It felt quite intimidating, but the police in general acted with integrity and were polite.”

She said: “This is about the way government is insisting this goes ahead, and how frustrated we are that the democratic process is not available to us.”

Picture by Julian Brown 14/08/17

Natalie Bennett of the Green Party

Fracking rig construction site, Preston New Road, Little Plumpton

Picture by Julian Brown 14/08/17 Natalie Bennett of the Green Party Fracking rig construction site, Preston New Road, Little Plumpton

In 2015, Lancashire County Council rejected Cuadrilla’s application to test drill at the site, but the decision was overturned by the government.

Coun Jackson added: “We’re three respectable women, but we feel so strongly about drawing attention to this, because we care about our grandchildrens’ future.

Other countries are saying no to fracking, and we can do the same.”

Campaigners were in the Court of Appeal this week following a defeat at the High Court earlier this year.

The appeal follows a decision in April by Mr Justice Dove to dismiss judicial review actions brought by environmental campaigner Gayzer Frackman and the Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG).

They had urged the judge to rule that the decision to grant a planning application for the site in Fylde was not fair or lawful.

Emily Heath, 45, of Meadow Street, Lancaster, Mollie Foxall, 71, of Aldcliffe Hall Drive, Lancaster and Caroline Jackson, 63, of Park Road, Lancaster, were charged with wilful obstruction of a highway and have been bailed to appear at Blackpool Magistrates’ Court on September 25.

No-one from Cuadrilla was available for comment.

Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all said they will oppose fracking - until further research is completed.