Lancashire Police had to shut part of a busy road between Preston and Blackpool on Wednesday (11 January) due to anti-fracking protests.Advertisement
The A583 Preston New Road was closed between Whitehills and Fox Lane Ends as demonstrators slow-walked in front of lorries trying to go in and out of the Cuadrilla site.
The energy firm has been given permission by the government to resume fracking for shale gas and is starting preparation work on the site.
Fylde Police have blasted a ‘small number’ of protesters for their actions.
Sergeant Andy Hill said: “While we have a duty to facilitate people going about their lawful business we also have a duty to facilitate peaceful protest. It was regrettable today that the actions of a small number of individuals went beyond this at times which resulted in us having to implement road closures for safety reasons.
“We appreciate the continued cooperation from the local community and we would like to thank them for their patience and understanding.”
Read more: Cuadrilla resume work at Preston New Road
The actions drew strong criticism from business leaders as the main road was left blocked for more than four hours.
Chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce Babs Murphy told Business Lancashire: “As a result, countless local people and businesses will have been inconvenienced. Even more seriously, the potential threat to life resulting from delays to ambulances and other emergency services as a result of the extensive delays caused would have been significant.
“We realise that the police have a difficult job in balancing the right to peaceful protest against the need to keep the Fylde Coast’s major road infrastructure open, but today’s events indicate that Lancashire Constabulary should reconsider its policing approach to further minimise the disruption to local people and the local business community.
“Three years ago, the offices of my chamber in Blackpool were invaded by anti-fracking extremists and a staff member was injured. That was wrong then and what has happened today is also wrong. I call on the Chief Constable for Lancashire and the other public authorities to be resolute in maintaining the rule of law in the interests of local people and businesses. It’s time to hold these professional protesters to account.”
Frack Free Lancashire, which has been leading the peaceful protests at the Cuadrilla site, said it did not recognise the protesters who appeared on Wednesday and was not involved in their actions.