Police boss welcomes decision to withdraw officers from anti-fracking protest


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A police boss has welcomed the decision by North Wales Police to stop sending officers to police an anti-fracking protest in Lancashire.

As a former anti-fracking campaigner North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones was unhappy the force was sending reinforcements due to an increase in protests at the site near Preston.

Neighbouring forces are currently helping Lancashire Constabulary as campaigners stage a month of civil disobedience.

Among them is North Wales Police who currently have a sergeant and six constables helping out for a second week.

But Mr Jones has been told the force have turned down a request for a further four weeks of reinforcements in Preston after this week.

Drilling is expected to begin at the site by the end of August and the Lancashire Constabulary moved to round-the-clock policing to “ensure the safety of protesters, staff and the public”.

The site, run by energy firm Cuadrilla, has been the scene of daily demonstrations since January.

Mr Jones said: “As an environmental campaigner prior to being elected Police and Crime Commissioner, I have opposed fracking as I considered it a danger in many respects but mainly because of potential pollution of water.

“I was a prominent member of Frack Free Wrexham and campaigned strongly and eventually successfully to prevent IGAS carrying out exploratory drilling at Borras.

“I was also prominent in lobbying Welsh Government to issue a moratorium over Fracking in Wales which they did and will continue to lobby them to utilise new powers delegated to them over energy to ban fracking in line with other European countries.

“I was told that North Wales Police were sending officers to Preston to assist Lancashire Constabulary in policing the fracking protest against Cuadrilla.

“The force were aware I was unhappy but it was an operational decision over which I had no control as mutual aid between forces is provided as part of national agreement on strategic policing requirements.

“I was told last week that there would be no further deployments after I made representations around capacity issues in North Wales and questioned  how could we justify sending officers to Lancashire  in those circumstances.

“I’ve now been told there will be just one more week of support in Preston and that North Wales Police have refused a request for a further four weeks of reinforcements.

“Why should officers from North Wales be sent to police and facilitate an activity where the activity is more or less unlawful in their own country?

“The decision not to send any more officers from North Wales after this week may be down to a number of factors, my opposition only being one factor. I suspect the main factor is around capacity issues within North Wales Police over the summer holidays.”

Cuadrilla, which was granted permission to work at the site by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid in 2016, has said drilling is due to start in the summer with fracking a few months later.

It would mean for the first time, UK shale rock will be drilled horizontally, a process which has prompted environmental concerns.

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