Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Day 10 in the Cuadrilla House...

Day 10 in the Cuadrilla House… and the good people are beginning to growl audibly. The residents who laboured over the years with planning objections, appeal statements and all the research that went into informing these things – the same residents who saw the Council rejection of planning, have that decision stolen by Westminster… have run out of options, been abandoned by the state and are taking matters into the only hands they can trust to protect their communities… their own.

So today marked a clear strengthening of mood and resolve by the Protectors on site. Yesterday’s decision at the roadside to act to halt breaches of planning, went a stage further today as at the end of it, Cuadrilla tried to overstay their allocated time (again). When told at 2:40pm that there were 3 more vehicles due, residents huddled to discuss how this threatened breach would be handled. Cuadrilla wanted to ram all the vehicles in and would still facilitate our slow-walks… but we knew this would mean running past the close down time (Traffic Management Plan) and we were pretty certain, they’d blame that on the slow-walks too.

Site staff and police had been told by Protectors yesterday that if they attempted to move the fencing again and risk emergency transport by closing the road (to turn the over-sized vehicles) – that we would each hold the fence panels in place and fulfill the role of the absent Planning Inspectors. Cuadrilla stopped the over-sized vehicles coming. Today after slow walking the 2:40pm vehicle, Protectors prepared to disallow any further vehicles. We headed to the gates to exit the slow-walk and were told – NO FURTHER VEHICLES would come today. This felt good for all of us who have turned up at the site and watched as the immoral, undemocratic, dangerous monstrosity begins to form – helplessness is inevitable – until you seize control of what you personally do in response to this attack.

Of course caution is advised but sometimes we forget…
John who runs a local business, Maple Farm has had brilliant signs made over the years and is an incredible force in this; for this roadside action, he made some big road signs and as he placed them this morning, asked if I’d keep an eye on them in case site staff tried to move them.

A few hours later I spotted a large chap from the site, walking off with a sign and although I could only see the back of it, I knew it was ours. I ran across the road and demanded our sign back – and promptly wrestled it from him. It was as I started to head back across the road that I realised it was bloody heavy lol! I dropped the back of it down and dragged noisily as metal skated on asphalt… then the funny bit happened: Cuadrilla complained that our signs were distracting motorists and were causing a danger on the highway!! They said an Inspector would be sent for from the Council to have them removed… oooooo we chuckled! We’ve been trying for 10 working days to get an Inspector here! 

The irony. We re-sited our signs and no-one tried again and no Inspector came.. again.

The day was full of power and the Protectors full of cake and mints that are frequently gifted by visitors and passing cars who want to show support. The tally of the day was in the end 6 x vehicles arrived and slow-walked – and at least 2 cancelled though with wide-loads not able to get through either, we know this to be higher.

Cuadrilla had sent word (to stir us?) that they were going to be ‘ramping up’ to 20-30 vehicles per day but there is not only no sign of this, it is actually impossible given the working hours for vehicle movements. We have a retired logistics chap in one of the residents’ groups and he was in the aeronautics industry – he has observed timings and process and calculates that even 14 vehicles arriving between 9:30am and 3pm – would be a challenge… so just another Cuadrilla pipe dream and a chance to ‘ramp’ tempers up too perhaps.

The rhythm of our days is a bit like improvised jazz… but we are finding our harmony amidst the cacophony. See you tomorrow x

Monday, 16 January 2017

Day 9 in the Cuadrilla House...

Day 9 in the Cuadrilla House... and the good people grow more numerous, more affronted, more impassioned and ever-more determined to halt this dangerous industry and its obnoxious disregard of planning limitations, road safety and us. There is growing anger that abuses of Planning that are clear to all witnessing – go unchallenged. Why do they go unchallenged? Because the Council can’t afford the manpower… doesn’t bode well for if this gets further progressed to dangerous chemicals, waste, methane venting, masses of vehicle movements etc.

So a tactic/response was devised amongst those who spend time at the roadside of the A583 (Preston New Road)… Planning breeches would be monitored by those witnessing and the action causing the breech, halted by us. When we arrived this morning, the site staff and police were told that if any attempt was made to again move the fencing so that it takes the whole road, blocks traffic and risks emergency traffic in order to turn the huge vehicles… then we would be placing our bodies against the fence and any attempt to push us would be too dangerous. Unless a Planning Inspector is on site, we’re left with no option in the interest of the safety of our community. Workers had originally said that fence moving would be needed for large loads today – after they were informed of plans, only vehicles that could turn without fence-moving, came.

About that emergency traffic issue:
Protectors maintained the clearway for ambulances despite Cuadrilla’s fiasco of a traffic plan that has caused delays already to emergency vehicles. It is clear this would happen as an ambulance on this vital ‘blue light’ route has only one lane to journey on and if traffic is already oncoming in it, there is no way through. We work hard to ensure there is not disruption on this road but Cuadrilla have no regard. Cuadrilla PR has tried since the start of this, to say that we are causing traffic… rather than their red lights, fence movements and lane closure! Grrrr.

Each day that progresses brings a growing rage… personally, I see the steps being taken and although we are aiming to get this stopped in one of the legal challenges or because bankruptcy for Cuadrilla is so close – the powerful urge to surge forward and just STOP IT! Is hard to ignore. I see this growing in Protectors around me, of all types.

Today progress was impacted; 5 x slow-walks and trucks were held back at Whitehills Business Park. At the end of the day when some of us had to dash for school pick-ups, they were closing down for 3pm and said no more trucks. Thankfully others were still on site when a sneaky last truck came through – abusing planning at 3:30pm. All video and photographic evidence of breeches is sent to Lancashire County Council – where they appear unable to do anything about it. Then they wonder why actions escalate and people have to act in self-defence – our democracy fails us completely but serves Cuadrilla like a hand-maiden.

Some days I want to walk away – look for an exit and run… but since the day I discovered the truth of this industry, I have stood on some road somewhere – blocking the route to our young; this is just another road and the same one all at once and I know there is no exit till the threat is gone. See you in the morning x

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Sit still and be quiet...

The UK currently IS frack-free and that puts us in the stronger position - IF this industry gets a foothold, then we are dis-empowered by laws and the cost of accessing 'justice'. Then we will only have direct action as the option - all others will be gone.

Nothing is more important than our air and water - nothing. For those still unsure if NOW is the time to stand up and say no, to get involved in a local campaign, to join others to stop this industry as it steamrollers through our communities and shatters democracy... please be assured that NOW is when you are needed most.
Not all are able bodied, many are tied to carer duties and others simply struggle to find a way that fits what they can contribute... what we've found over the years (6 years frack free) is that ALL are able to impact in some arena and that it needs ALL arenas to be worked in... unions, workplaces, at frack sites, in town centres informing people, your MP's office, parliament, the law courts, the streets, the comments threads on newspapers, letters to Editors, the supplier set-off points providing for this industry and of course, many tactics to achieve results that last.
For instance, the current breaches of planning at sites in construction phase, are nourishing the content of legal challenges; the people protecting those sites are the witnesses and the amplifiers of what is being done; the direct actions taken to slow progress, are costing the industry time, money and investors; those applying political and Union pressure are ensuring those who want our votes, know they won't have them unless they fight too for frack free status; those who are so eloquent online in comment threads and newspaper letters, are bringing the information to residents so that it's not just industry PR out there and this in turn brings residents to roadsides and beyond... everything counts. Then there's those online who weave the parts together for sharing, those online who soothe ragged edges and uplift those who are falling - so important.
What the industry needs to succeed is very simple - for you to sit still and be quiet and for those already active - to mistrust each other. Thing is though, we ALL share the same intent...
keep the UK frack free 

...and therefore, ARE united in this singular aim, completely. We may not always see eye to eye - but we are all aiming the same way and CAN find that shared intent as a re-start point for co-operation that gets us results we are each seeking. Together, we are many many more of us than 'them'.
There is genuine respect in this movement for everyone who does something to stop this threat - be it awareness raising in posts online or industry stalling by blockading a truck on roads... we just don't always communicate or co-ordinate for best effect. Mainly this is a logistical thing as we are all autonomous volunteers in different places - full of determination and certainly not meek and mild lol!
It's finding the best way to use our diversity as well as our unity that seems to be important and will scare the hell out of the industry - us all joined up is a scarey big beast of a movement. I wouldn't mess with us ;)
That we have different approaches is good, it is less predictable - but that we remember how much we share in wanting the same thing and that we are acting from the same place in ourselves... is something I have sometimes neglected to keep in mind - as have others, we're all uniquely flawed:)
Think the challenges from each other though can be a powerful thing for our movement, that in the healing - strengthens us

Friday, 13 January 2017

Day 8 in the Cuadrilla House...

Day 8 in the Cuadrilla House… and the good people gathered under blue skies and sunshine for a day’s tally of only three vehicles entering the site and all were delayed and slow-walked. A portaloo, a generator and a road-sweeper were all that was delivered on this day of high winds that forced the moving-in of the fencing so that if it was blown down, it would fall within the coned-off area rather than the traffic.

Numbers are recovering now as residents numbering 30+ came and went according to availability and the honks of support, get louder and more numerous every day. Site building progress is slow and sluggish; all they’ve done in the 8 working days is to put in a temporary lightweight pathway and some portable toilets and cabins – the site-road suitable for the heavyweight trucks to eventually come, is not started yet.

Incompetence and arrogance are key characteristics of Cuadrilla sites here in Lancashire and the safety failings and traffic plan breaches that happen daily, can now contribute to the two outstanding legal challenges.  Today an ambulance was delayed at lights as the oncoming traffic had filled the single lane. 

Thankfully we usually have one or more Councillors amongst the Protectors and video and photographic evidence is being sent to Lancashire County Council’s Planning Department for investigation.

A new notice has appeared on site, it’s a ‘Method Statement’ produced by Cuadrilla for the Health & Safety Executive and Lancashire County Council and deals with the slow-walking. No-one had any input on this and as far as we’re concerned, it does not have any impact or power... especially as the road it names is not even this one (PNR is the A583 NOT the A538 in Cheshire).  We will continue as residents/Protectors to decide how each day goes, according to those who are there – whatever notices they put up. 

The terminology in the notice is rather specific and one of the Protectors who is a Psychologist, noted the way it seemed designed to imply consent or agreement – despite no-one being ‘consulted’. She also noted that the impact of the document could cause suspicion and division and was probably why it was written that way.

There is an interesting article that deals with the methods used to demonise protesters and stir internal division to break any growing unity - 5 Ways Powerful People Trick You Into Hating Underdogs - it is worth your time and says things I recognise like:

- If you can just convince them it's a competition, they'll spend all their energy hating each other and none of it trying to fix the system.

- Find an example of a successful member of the  group and exaggerate their power.

- Simply wait for a member of the activist group -- any member -- to commit a crime. Then the media will focus on the crime not the reason for the protest; because riots and broken glass make for even more exciting photos and videos than the demonstrations. The majority -- who fears crime and instability above all else -- will then associate the movement with violence from then on.

- Talk about how environmentalists are only in it for the money (in this case, Al Gore), and there you go -- soon you'll have common folks looking at rising gas prices and saying, "Thanks a lot, Greenpeace."

- By highlighting the silliest of complaints from a group, you inoculate the audience against any real complaints that might come along later. Because they're ridiculous complaints, they get all the coverage and become the face of the movement. And, as a result, no meaningful change will occur.

- With just a little nudge, the people - even the good people -- will do it (label the protesters as irrational freaks) themselves.

I mention this because throughout this campaign to keep the UK frack free (and before it at Occupy), I witnessed the way our unity was clearly the biggest threat to those in power  and how much was done to break it. Right now as we gather each day, we also witness the online provocation of those who don’t know enough about the situation or people involved, to know what is true.  It is easy though to find truth if you research the people involved, the behaviour they have exhibited over time and the possible motivations behind their involvement.

Enough though now of the down-side… the 8-day rollercoaster looks to have hit a nice pause as the residents’ groups were told the site would not operate tomorrow (it didn’t last Saturday either) – we’re not trusting this of course and have residents who will be there anyway and will call and post online if there is any movement. 

So back 9am Monday if nothing changes, please do join us for the roadside protest and/or the slow-walks. Expecting to start the week as we finished it and to respond to any changes as they come. We’re requesting somewhere for disabled parking as our elderly and less able bodied residents are struggling each day with the long walk and lack of a place to rest. Being hindered from the right to protest because of age or disability is unfair. Will update when the groups are told..

On a personal level I’m feeling the weight of the week like many others but there’s no way off this road and we’re here till we stop them. Thank you to the very many who do this stuff throughout the country and those who have only just joined us, it isn’t easy but it is essential.

Namaste x

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Day 7 in the Cuadrilla House...

Day 7 in the Cuadrilla House… and the good people keep on keeping on, whatever happens. The gathering began again this morning ready for the placing of the temporary traffic lights. It was clear by the concerned faces that this exhaustive business of trying to protect our communities from this industry, takes its toll. WE though, the people of this country… are all we have that is keeping the UK frack free and for those who do – it is impossible to walk away.

After actions yesterday that closed the road, the Emergency Plan is still in use which means truck movements are able to come from a different direction at times and there is heightened policing. What it doesn’t allow for though is the breaching of the Traffic Management Plan. As we have two outstanding legal challenges, it is useful that Cuadrilla prove our concerns right: twice today the fence had to be moved and ALL traffic from both directions halted, as three trucks could not turn in the limited space and were stuck. This… we knew would happen – it’s part of why our wise Council refused Cuadrilla’s unworkable planning application – their Traffic Management Plan was not made better when the Government overruled our Council and decided to try to frack us anyway.

We checked with the site about when the trucks were due and that we would be given access to the site to slow-walk each of them. All agreed. A brief note about this in light of questions: after the violent and dangerous scenes of Day 4 at the site, the residents who were shoved by fences and nearly mowed down by a reversing truck, insisted on the right to protest and importantly, the right to do it without harm. The police too told Cuadrilla that the situation was dangerous on this major road and they would have to facilitate protest. Cuadrilla had to comply. We are permitted 15 minutes per truck that in reality is half an hour with us getting in and out of the fenced area and position and it puts as in the site, disrupting flow and making them appear as if they don't have full control of their work area. Today we only had three slow-walks as Cuadrilla stopped any other truck movements themselves due to the ones that got stuck and ate up all their work time.

Those Day 4 images are what brought concerned Protectors to us yesterday – showing what happens when any Protectors are attacked. We had warned Security that if they treated us this way, others would come and other tactics would be used. I don’t think they actually believed us… so although yesterday was challenging and full of tense uncertainty – it certainly served to show the truth and reality of the determined, passionate and committed opposition to this industry.

This struggle to keep ourselves frack free means EVERY day is different… just as each protection site has differed too. I actually feel more out of my depth with this particular site than others....even when those others were brutal with heavy-handed police lines protecting this vile industry, it made the method of protest, obvious. This way has always come with a guarantee of trauma, bad press and valuable Protector time wasted in courts and jails … it has also led to the exclusion of some residents who want to object but are scared or less able-bodied.

Here at this site on PNR, the residents have fought hard for years in councils, courts, parliament, streets, MPs offices, public meetings, industry events and everywhere in-between and clearly want to stop the industry. It is also clear though - they want to try it first in a peaceful, safe and yet effective way - how that looks is unclear but unfolding. We are finding our way and it is unfamiliar – but I think that’s good. I know my body will end up somewhere between a drill and earth if it comes to it but will do everything I can to NOT meet that stage. I don’t know any in this movement who will give-up or give-in until we drive the frackers out.

There is every chance too that the industry could screw this up themselves with their usual inept behaviour PLUS there is talk in business/finance press of 'energy bubble' and there is also hope then that if we can just stall it long enough (we've done 6 years so far) then the investors will pull the plug.

I have no idea if what any of us do is the best way or the one that will do the trick, I think actually that it is the diversity of our actions that will be key. Here there is a different way being tried in the hope of having a long-term impact rather than single disruption. This is also about building community resistance techniques. My hope is that each community that is under threat - creates inclusive actions that allow the members of that community to become activists when needed so that industries that bring threats to safety, can be resisted by local people effectively - without the need for experienced activists to have to travel to all the calls for help... with all the licenses, those who came yesterday, will never be able to be everywhere.

The week nears its end after tough days, tough lessons and a heck of a drop in temperature! There is a long road still ahead but a far longer one behind us and we near breaking point with this industry. Tempers have been frayed, friendships stretched to breaking and my hope is …the sore parts where we’ve rubbed each other the wrong way, will us knit closer together in the healing.

Arctic chill on it’s way… but on the bright side, no rain due tomorrow x

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.