For the second time in two months, protestors from outside Lancashire have been found guilty of trespassing on Cuadrilla’s site at Banks, West Lancashire. On the first occasion two protestors were also found guilty of assaulting Cuadrilla staff. On both occasions, defence arguments that Cuadrilla’s operations were unlawful were dismissed by the judge.
In the latest trial, we understand that the two of the three protestors were acquitted as, in the court’s view, the short amount of time that they had spent on the site did not constitute an offence. We respect the fact that protestors have the right to represent their point of view but are pleased that the trespass and in particular the assault of our staff has been recognised and punished.
Cuadrilla’s operations have always been lawful, as endorsed by the two recent court rulings. Cuadrilla’s planning consent was in place throughout our operations and remains in place today. Whilst being legal, we recognise that we didn’t fully comply with two of the conditions of the planning consent. This is something that we will address in future operations.
One of the planning conditions specified the 90 day period for drilling which we had estimated as the likely duration and which we overran by three weeks.
A second planning condition involved the production of a method statement which restricted activities on site to the period 1st April-30th September. This condition was in place to avoid any potential disruption to wintering birds. The drilling process, which started in August, continued beyond this window of time.
In accordance with the method statement, we commissioned an independent ecologist to monitor the birds in the area of the site. The ecologist reported in December 2011 that there was no evidence of any impact on wintering birds and noted that the level of activity observed with the drilling operations was less than the level of farming activity in the surrounding fields.