Protesters at an anti-fracking camp erected close to one of only two UK sites to be given the go-ahead to start the controversial gas extraction technique have said they are drawing a “line in the sand”.
The camp began when activists moved on to private farmland near Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire, just before Christmas, after the High Court rejected a legal move to stop plans for fracking at a well south-west of the village.
A handful of campers braved Christmas Day outside and the sub-zero temperatures which have followed but they say hundreds more people have come to show their support at the site over the last week from the local area and around the country.
Now they say they want to turn the camp into the national focus for anti-fracking campaigning in the UK.
One camper, Louise Hammond, from Lincolnshire, said local residents brought Christmas dinner out to them on the big day.
She said: “This field we’ve taken will be full before long and it’s absolutely massive.
“This is the focus now, nationally. If we can’t do anything here then that’s it. It’s a line in the sand.”
Mrs Hammond said the camp was about two miles from the well but she said it was located next to a main road the trucks would need to use to access the well site when the operation begins.
She said the plan was to use direct action to block the lorries.
The protesters entered the site without the permission of the landowner and they have spent the week putting in various facilities.
The plan by the firm Third Energy to frack for shale gas using an existing two-mile deep well in Kirby Misperton was approved in May by North Yorkshire county council’s planning committee.
Residents from the village supported by Friends of the Earth tried to block the decision in the High Court but, days before Christmas, a judge dismissed their application for judicial review.
The judge ruled that the terms and conditions afforded “a considerable degree of protection to residents” and the council’s decision was lawful.
The Kirby Mipserton application was the first to be approved in the UK since 2011, when tests on the Fylde coast, in Lancashire, were found to have been the probable cause of minor earthquakes in the area.
Since then, two high-profile applications to frack in Lancashire have been rejected by councillors.
But in October, the scheme to drill up to four wells and frack for shale gas at Preston New Road, Fylde, which had been turned down by Lancashire County Council, was given the go-ahead by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid following an appeal.
A second site in Lancashire, Roseacre Wood, has not yet been given the green light amid concerns over HGV traffic and road safety in the area.
In a statement, Third Energy said: “Third Energy has become aware that a small group of protestors has set up a camp on the Kirby Misperton Road close to the junction with the A169, objecting to the company’s plans for a test frack of its existing well at the KMA site in Kirby Misperton. These plans have been approved by North Yorkshire County Council, after extensive consultation and deliberation, and the council’s decision was upheld in the High Court.
“Third Energy respects people’s right to lawful and peaceful protest. We trust that those who object to our plans will also respect our rights, and the rights of Ryedale residents, to go about our business lawfully and peacefully.
“Third Energy has been producing gas and energy in Ryedale in a safe, discreet and environmentally sensitive way for more than two decades, and the first well was drilled at the KMA site in 1985.
We work closely with local residents, local businesses, local councils and the regulators. We look forward to being able to develop our operations in the future in the same safe, discreet and environmentally sensitive way.”
After the camp was established, North Yorkshire Police said it would be using a “neighbourhood policing approach” in relation to the camp.
The force said in a statement: “The police have a duty to facilitate peaceful protest, which is balanced with the rights of residents and businesses to go about their daily life in Kirby Misperton with any possible disruption kept to minimum.”