Lancashire Farmer Prosecuted Over Anti-Fracking Signs

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John Tootill
Pictured: Fylde farmer, John Tootill, standing next to one of the signs he is being prosecuted for displaying:

Since making a unique stand against the hydraulic fracturing company, Cuadrilla back in 2014, John Tootill is well-known for his large and colourful signage protesting against shale gas and hydraulic fracturing in Lancashire.

John’s family-owned and run business, Maple Farm, is only 800 metres from Cuadrilla’s proposed flagship site for exploratory fracking works. His specialist plant nursery business relies on the clean air and fertile agricultural land that the Fylde Coast is famed for, and has operated successfully for over 40 years nestled in the quiet, rural lanes of Westby-with-Plumptons.

Last week, Mr Tootill received a summons to appear before Blackpool Magistrates’ Court on the 21st January 2016, charged with 26 counts of Displaying Advertisements Without the Consent of Fylde Borough Council or the Secretary of State.

After 16 months of letters and according to the documents that Fylde Borough Council Enforcement Officers presented to Mr Tootill, 62 separate visits by officers to photograph his signs on private property, the prosecution has finally reached Blackpool Magistrates’ Court.

Anti-fracking summons

He believes the prosecution is a politically-motivated attack, citing a variety of large advertising signage across the Fylde Coast, many on highway verges and roundabouts all without the required planning permission but no court action.

John told Scisco Media: “The council are trying to bankrupt and criminalise me for doing what I should be doing which is all I can to safeguard my children, community and livelihood. This is after all a basic duty of care the council should be performing to protect the residents of the Fylde. But, due to lack of conscience, greed and political allegiances, they are instead choosing to bury their heads in the sand and do nothing.”

Frack off
 Could it be more a case of what’s actually written on the signs, rather than the signs themselves, that has motivated the Tory-led council to waste taxpayers’ money on pursuing this prosecution? During last year’s general election, it was reported that Tory MP, Mark Menzies, struggling to retain his position as Fylde’s representative, complained about an A5 Frack Free Lancashire poster displayed in Wesham Post Office and demanded that it be removed due to it being “political”.
Frack Free Lancashire
Some of the signage that the charge sheets list is no bigger than A5 size; some are not even signs that he has personally displayed. The full charge sheet and photographic evidence totals 26 counts of breaching the Borough Council or Sec 4 /30 Town and Country Planning Control of Advertisements, having not applied for planning consent to display signage on Mr Tootill’s own property. Mr Tootill has installed a new sign since the summons from court was issued.
 Fylde Council
A Fylde Council spokesman said: “The case against Mr Tootill has been adjourned until 25th February 2016, when a plea and case management hearing will be held. It would be subjudice to comment any further and the case for and against Mr Tootill will be heard in court.”
*Updated Friday 22nd January 2016 at 18.35hrs


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