Barricade goes up at fracking protest campsite

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THE battle over a potential gas well in East Yorkshire has stepped up a gear after protesters claimed squatters’ rights to block the entranceway.

Energy firm Rathlin Energy (UK) is taking legal advice to try and remove the campaigners who set up a barricade at Crawberry Hill, near Walkington, earlier this week.

Rathlin, which has permission to carry out further testing there and another well at West Newton it drilled last year, said the protesters were “irresponsible”.

They said they had faced “considerable vandalism” with signs being defaced with anti-fracking messages and security fencing being damaged.

A Rathlin spokesman said vandalism had made the site “vulnerable from a health, safety and environmental perspective.”

He added: “We cannot get on to the site to empty the perimeter ditches or assess and maintain the wellhead. Equally, they are putting individuals, families and dog walkers at risk as they could conceivably wander on to the site and injure themselves because the ditches and equipment are now exposed due to the fact that our fencing has been removed.”

But Ian Crane, who says he had 20 years’ experience in the oil services industry and is at the camp, said the barricade was a direct reaction to the police’s use of anti-trade union legislation treating campaigners “as pickets” and a refusal to accept they are taking part in “peaceful” protest. High winds were blamed for the fencing coming down.

Campaigner Kirsty Mackinder from Hull said they couldn’t be responsible for everybody’s actions, adding: “They are trying to spin it and say it is us that are the vandals, but who are the vandals at the end of the day? They shouldn’t be having to go on there and take off water because it is dangerous. Who has caused that water to be toxic in the first place?”

The company insists they are looking “exclusively at conventional oil and gas targets in sandstone and limestone formations.” But suspicions were aroused by their application for a “mini fall-off test” which involves pumping saltwater into the Bowland shale until the rock begins to crack. Police said it was a civil matter.