Direct action at the Banks Group site in Pont Valley has sparked what campaigners say is a police effort at public vilification, while Cuadrilla braces for Block Around the Clock.
With the weather improving, both development and public campaigning against coal and frack gas extraction are moving into higher gear this month, with a blockade against opencast mining at Pont Valley leading the way and prompting a media denunciation (BBC Northeast, 48:31) by police.
Campaigners expressed their anger after Durham chief inspector Richie Allen took to the airwaves to accuse them of “tying up police resources” to the tune of thousands of pounds in a seeming effort to argue his decision to commit those resources is their fault and that protests therefore shouldn’t happen.
More directly infuriating however was a seeming allusion by the chief inspector that “criminal and offending behaviour” was taking place “at or around the site,” which he blamed on “travelling activists”. In a statement yesterday the Campaign to Protect Pont Valley responded:
The use of the word ‘criminality’ implies that the peaceful protestors are part of a wider criminal fraternity. This is a regrettable confusion of terms on behalf of Chief Inspector Allen. He compounded this confusion in his BBC Radio Newcastle interview by making further use of the terms ‘criminal and offending behaviour’ and went onto imply that if a local had been arrested that would have been preferable.
Given the significant negative comments and abusive online trolling directed towards the Campaign to Protect Pont Valley the stressing and repetition of the terms ‘non-local’ by Chief Inspector Allen can still be considered to be divisive, if not inflammatory. It should be stressed that this 30-year campaign has always been led and supported by local residents and still is.
Neither Chief Inspector Allen nor Stephanie Finan his interviewer on BBC Radio Newcastle provided any context for the Campaign to Protect Pont Valley. The piece was biased and unrepresentative of a complex situation. No mention was made of the ongoing 30 years + campaign against opencasting Pont Valley, or the fact that an application to revoke planning permission has been requested from the previous Secretary of State for Communities Sajid Javid and his successor James Brockenshire. No mention was made of the revocation of planning permission for Banks Mining Group’s proposed surface mine at Druridge Bay which was revoked by Sajid Javid in March 2018.
We would like to clarify that the site at Bradley is not yet an opencast mine and that since 1986 planning permission has been rejected three times by Durham County Council. It should be noted that the Pont Valley where the Bradley site is situated is designated as an Area of High Landscape Value.
We still find it regrettable that Chief Inspector Allen failed to mention the ongoing pursuit of environmental crimes, as outlined by the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, now under consideration by the Durham Police Commissioner.
Durham police have been accused of using heavy-handed and intimidating tactics to try and clear protests at the site, which have included lock-ons and road blockades.
Block Around The Clock
Meanwhile near Blackpool the iconic struggle at Preston New Road is setting up for a major new campaign against the troubled Cuadrilla fracking site.
PNR is a major test case for the fracking industry, which has been in serious financial trouble on the back of sustained protests and low energy prices. Organisers of Block Around the Clock are hoping that a new wave of pressure will help tip the balance further and push fracking off the agenda.
Break The Chain, running from June 11th-24th, will see a broad-based fortnight of direct action against Cuadrilla, its supply chains and political support, aiming to disrupt the flow of materials needed to get fracking underway. This will be followed up by a targeted blockade of PNR itself from June 27th-July 1st. Kate Robertson of Reclaim the Power said:
Fracking is a major threat to the health of local communities and does not offer meaningful secure jobs like a thriving renewables industry would. Westminster continues to force this on communities despite overwhelming opposition. Fracking needs access to our natural resources, vehicles, finance and politicians to survive. We will break those links in the fracking supply chain.
The fracking industry is on the ropes – plans are behind schedule and the companies responsible are losing money. Meanwhile the movement is stronger than ever. We have a commitment to the people of Lancashire and won’t rest until it’s defeated.