Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Day 6 in the Cuadrilla House…

Day 6 in the Cuadrilla House… and the good people faced another challenge. The residents gathered at 9am at the site - other activists travelled to stop a truck and they gathered further down PNR. The other activists stopped a truck for a few hours for the length of the road – so we only had one truck to slow-walk and did this. Like the last few days, up to 4 trucks were not able to deliver today.
So it has culminated in disagreement and that is an awful waste of energy - but an inevitable when diverse groups, determined individuals and concerned residents although aiming for the same target... have very different approaches.
On an open blog, discussing actions at a live protection site means detail is clearly not going to be shared. For a week now, local residents gathered each morning at 9am to agree ways to ensure we stop Cuadrilla fracking at Preston New Road. Between us we devised the initial stages of what we thought would create the best circumstances for us to achieve our aims. There is no real ‘site’ yet… just a bit of road with a field alongside that first needs a works-road building; we have months of this ahead before they can get started on a well pad – time that means we can include others in decisions and avoid knee-jerk reactions; we can evolve and adapt our actions with the site. The community is determined and committed that Cuadrilla will not drill here and most are willing to do what it takes… WHEN needed – unless our plans to avoid it getting to that stage work – and we think they can. Right now though, the deliveries are of gravel and wood in trucks smaller than what will become the new norm in a few months’ time. So far, we’ve done well and each day have noted around four trucks that couldn’t make it into the site before 3pm cut-off time… as a result of our actions. As mentioned on other daily updates – this site is unlike any other in the UK; usually we find proposed frack sites in more remote areas. This one is in a residential area on the busy Preston New Road… the A583 which is part of Lancashire’s strategic road network that is used by the North West Ambulance Service in reaching “blue light” emergencies. It is targeted to attend 75 per cent of Category A Red 1 calls (the most time critical, where patients are not breathing or don’t have a pulse) within 8 minutes. Even a 15-minute closure of this major local trunk road could make the difference between life and death. Here’s our limitations: -The size of the space available in the coned-off site area is (until they build a slip-road into the actual site) around 4 trucks in length and a single lane wide – full of workers, work things and security. - If we cause the closure of the other lane in any way – the ‘emergency plan’ would be initiated (in the Planning for this site) due to the importance of the road; which will impact our ability to be close to this site and act to affect it. Here’s our advantages: -Lots of local support; most oncoming traffic that’s forced into the single lane, honks in support – we successfully made clear to our community that delays are clearly from Cuadrilla temporary traffic lights and single lane-only. -Plenty enough residents willing to arrive by 9am in order to take part in actions – 40 or more each day so far. -The ability of the local Protectors to go home each day to a decent night’s sleep that means each day they arrive with energy. -The support of local businesses who allow parking and welcome us in. -A police force who have had regular community meetings with residents in order to ensure they know what Cuadrilla are doing and can discuss community concerns… this has gone on for years with the same police. -The police have an awareness of who the residents are as people in the community, not just when they are taking part in anti-fracking activities – they have also had to contend with Cuadrilla too – Cuadrilla are awful at all their relationships. -We have had six years of community building through public meetings, stalls, walks, our annual Gathering on the Green and countless other activities that have woven us closely and strengthened our resolve as a community to stop this together and to do so in all the arenas including legal - two court challenges are currently pending. -We WON last year when fracking plans were rejected by our Parish, Regional and County Councils… we KNOW our community and our Councillors have said NO and that it is only a corrupted system that throws this back at us – we are righteously righteous. -Despite threats by Cuadrilla to start each year here, we have remained entirely frack-free for 6 years… ONLY due to community resistance work. So in response to the limitations and advantages, the CURRENT (week 1) way we are growing into this site and our role as Protectors of it, is to slow-walk trucks in order to delay work and discourage investors (a common tactic that works). Admittedly a rocky start where we were manhandled and a truck refused to stop regardless of the fleshy humans in the way. We did though pull it back and succeed in stopping the maniac truck driver when a Protector launched herself onto the vehicle and the police pounded his door… after holding it in place for nearly two hours, Cuadrilla sent a message saying they would not stop the slow walks. Due to the small area, we are using about 15 people each walk - the trucks know they may not deliver until we have got ourselves in position, walked slowly for the few yards there is for about 15 minutes and then removed ourselves safely. All in all we get about a half hour each time and with months of vehicles over 6-days per week ahead – this delays enough to worry investors, maintains the flow of traffic but keeps us safely from it and… puts us exactly where any activist would want to be – on the work area and without abuse. As the site changes – so will we. Yesterday other Protectors came initially out of concern for our well-being after the bad scenes the day before… we were grateful until some said that what we were doing was not a ‘proper protest’. I don’t know what a proper protest is – I only know what a common protest is I suppose, the ones where the good people come to stop harm and are brutalised by rough policing and tarnished with slanderous media that puts others off becoming active in their communities if they think this is the common feature. We though… our residents and groups, decided we would try another way and that is what we set out to do, have done and hope to continue to do.