Energy firm Cuadrilla, along with local farmers, has filed papers to the High Court as it seeks an injunction to stop trespassing at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire.
The proposed injunction is to replace and extend an existing injunction forbidding trespassing on the shale gas exploration site and the surrounding farmland.
It is also looking to stop unlawful obstruction of the site’s entrance, and the nearby A538, as well as prohibiting ‘lock-ons’ – being deliberately chained to an object or another person to prevent site access – and obstructing vehicles leaving the site. These proposals would also apply to Cuadrilla’s supply chain.
Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan said: “Whilst we fully respect the right to peaceful and legal protest, unfortunately over the last 18 months we have seen an extraordinarily high level of unlawful protest activity.
“This has been directed at and impacted not just our workers but also our suppliers and other law-abiding citizens using the main road passing our site for their normal daily activities.
“Such unlawful conduct cannot be permitted to continue, and we hope that if we can secure this injunction it will deter this unlawful behaviour which is reckless and continues to cost local taxpayers millions of pounds.”
The injunction will be heard at Manchester’s Civil Justice Centre on Thursday 31 May, and follows the energy firm’s announcement that it had completed drilling at the Preston New Road site last month. Eversheds has been named as Cuadrilla’s representative on court papers.
Cuadrilla aims to start the fracking process by the third quarter of the year, subject to Government approval, and the company plans to have the site connected to the local gas grid network in 2019.
The horizontal well, which stretches for around 800 metres, will allow Cuadrilla to release the natural gas in the rock through hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping water at very high pressures to break the rock.
While fracking proposals have received strong opposition, Cuadrilla and other shale gas explorers have maintained that using the natural resource could significantly add to the UK’s energy supply, and reduce the need to import the gas from other countries.
Cuadrilla has now also started work on a second horizontal shale gas exploration well, and has planning consent to drill up to four of these wells on the site.