After 19 long months, with dedicated protestors living on-site in all weathers, Upton Community Protection Camp has finally ended. Through a heavy-handed bailiff removal, assisted by police forces from Cheshire, Merseyside and Wales, the site was stormed following a High Court Order for the peaceful protestors to vacate, giving them 28 days to leave their camp.
The camp’s occupiers were protesting against IGas’s plans to vertically drill an exploratory well for coal bed methane on the site, initially granted back in 2010. A three-year extension to the permission was achieved in May 2013 and IGas have until May 2016 to begin work before their application runs out.
Around 09.00hrs on the 12th of January, reports of over 150 police personnel accompanied by many high court enforcement officers entered the camp where the eviction began. Duttons Lane, running alongside the camp was closed to the public.
During the eviction, which lasted a full day, 10 protestors were arrested for obstructing police, with dispersal orders issued to bystanders who were deemed to be obstructing the clearance of the camp. The protestors, who had prepared themselves for the expected eviction by constructing underground tunnels, high structures and towers, made their removal slow and costly to IGas. The community of Upton was reported to be 85% against any drilling activity, with the nearest residents only 500 metres away and several schools located within a one-mile radius.
Ironically, in the same week, Drill or Drop reported IGas were issued with a four-year financial health warning from Company Watch after consistently failing to make a profit amidst vocal public dissent against shale gas and a flailing oil and gas market. Debt and cash flow problems for the beleaguered IGas were also flagged by The Motley Fool as an “investment to avoid”. IGas gained an unimpressive score of 13 on the Company Watch health check, with 0 being the lowest and an upper score of 100. Attaining a total of 25 or under, positions companies into a ‘warning’ zone.
Camp resident and spokesperson, Dr Steven Peers, told Scisco: “The Upton blockade was a huge success. The resources put into place to shift the camp demonstrates that the police are wholeheartedly working for the corporations and are not listening to the public who pay them to protect them. The bailiff teams were forced to use climbing experts, tunnel specialists and support from fire and rescue services. IGas Corporation should be made to pay for the entire police operation. It is them who are trying to profit out of contaminating the water, land and air in Cheshire and other areas.”
Upton Community Protection Camp might have been disbanded from their original location, but the passion for keeping the Cheshire village free of the oil and gas industry has not dissolved. Protests are ongoing and a Solidarity Saturday family event has been planned with the intention of demonstrating to the industry, the strength of feeling from the public and to “…draw the line against fossil fuels and corporate and government bullying.”