Was this the biggest own goal of all time?
At about 4:30 on Thursday morning a Cuadrilla convoy of about 20 trucks apparently contravened the planning regulations set by LCC, with the full knowledge and apparent collusion of Lancashire Police.
Cuadrilla were in self-congratulatory mode, sending out a cocky press release, and when questioned about the timing of the delivery responded in their characteristic manner, blaming everyone else for the company’s failings, Cuadrilla said it had been done
“in consultation with the police, with the aim of minimising disruption on the road outside the site. The company said the road has been closed or reduced to a single lane several times in recent weeks during protests.”
However, it was not long before the yarn began to unravel. Lancashire County Council were quick to distance themselves from the action, saying they had not been involved and that this was a clear breach of planning regulations.
The planning department told an enquirer that the convoys entering the site around 4 am were NOT permitted by LCC and therefore this was a breach of Planning Permission condition 19. Condition 19 is quite clear: Vehicles may enter between 7.30am – 6pm Monday – Friday, except in emergency conditions, which this clearly is not. LCC will be writing to Cuadrilla to issue a formal warning that any future breaches will result in enforcement action. Sadly this one will not result in any action as the government guidelines state that breaches should be resolved ‘via negotiation’. When asked what action will be taken in the event of further breaches they were told this would constitute a further breach of planning they would issue enforcement notices and legal action could be taken against Cuadrilla. This could take 2 forms: 1) they could stop activity on site 2) they could apply for variation to the permit. The enquirer was informed that LCC would issue a press release yesterday afternoon but as yet we have not been able to get hold of a copy.
So now we knew 3 things – that LCC were not involved, that Cuadrilla had breached planning regulations yet again, and that the regulators are as toothless as a new born baby and about as capable at standing up for themselves.
However, things were about to take a distinct turn for the worse for our favourite “local” fracking company.
It began to emerge that the claim that the breach had been committed “in consultation with the police” might be less than an accurate portrayal of events. In fact Lancashire Police denied that they’d been consulted by Cuadrilla and said that the firm had simply told them what they were going to do thus forcing the police to put a plan in place.
So now we have Cuadrilla not only breaching planning regulations (again) but trying to implicate the police in their actions. Of course, what is particularly shameful about this whole episode is what is not said. On being told by Cuadrilla that they were about to breach regulations Lancashire Police would appear to have had two options. They could have said “no” and informed LCC of the intended breach. This is clearly what a responsible police force trying to balance the situation and uphold the law should have done. Otherwise they could have caved in and colluded with Cuadrilla to facilitate their operations (again). This is what they chose to do. This was clearly a huge mistake as the ensuing reaction is demonstrating. Indeed there can be no doubt now that any claims by the police NOT to be facilitating Cuadrilla’s operations at the expense of the legitimate right to protest are little more than a poor joke.
But heck – why would Cuadrilla care? They got their drill in and no enforcement action is going to get taken by LCC, so they won that battle didn’t they?
Er not quite. One result was that this episode got almost an entire episode of Channel 5’s excellent magazine programme “The Wright Stuff” devoted to it this morning.
This programme draws an audience of about 250,000. Viewers were treated to a discussion between Matthew Wright and 3 guests, all of whom were clearly appalled by what happened yesterday.
Here are some of the points made by Matthew Wright during the initial discussion section:
Cuadrilla defended it’s decision to deliver outside of permitted hours by saying it had done so “in consultation with the police”. The aim they said was to minimise disruption on nearby roads which had been closed or reduced to a single lane by protesters. But it doesn’t sound like either Cuadrilla or Lancashire police discussed their plot with the council.
We asked Lancashire Police to comment on allegations that they are colluding with Cuadrilla to break Council planning regs. They said.. they denied it. They denied they’d been consulted by Cuadrilla. They did say the firm had told them what they were going to do thus forcing the police to put a plan in place. I guess critics will argue that if you break regs those .. if you you break regs on planning what other rules and regs might get broken?”
Does it bother you that Cuadrilla says it consulted with the police? The police say they weren’t consulted they were told by Cuadrilla but the net result was that these vehicles were allowed to do something outside of planning regs.
They’ve got planning regulations which have been set down, OK, now you might well argue that’s a civil matter, but you’ve got police there to maintain the peace, and what the police appear to have done, whether we accept collusion or not, is that they have enabled a very large corporation to break planning regulations, with their knowledge. They’ve been told they were going to do it.
A phone in resulted in almost unanimous condemnation of Cuadrilla’s actions and the police’s compliance (the one dissenting voice being cut off when they resorted to libellous accusations of protester violence) and the segment signed off with the following comment from Wright :
Apologies for having to cut people off but we’ve got to stay fair and just and adhere to the law – unlike Cuadrilla.
So Cuadrilla earned themselves and Lancashire police a very public humiliation in front of a quarter of a million of the people whose opinions they have been trying to change using a gaggle of very expensive PR firms for the last 5 years.
This has been a huge own goal – the only question is who last touched the ball – was it Cuadrilla or their friends amongst the decision makers at Lancashire Police?
The episode of The Wright Stuff can be found here for the next month https://www.my5.tv/the-wright-stuff/season-2017/episode-150.
or you can enjoy an audio recording here:
Phone In Segment