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Update: Anti-fracking protest at Barton Moss 'changed forever' as landmark ruling comes into force



Posted by Editor on 13th February 2014 at 05:00 PM
Update: Anti-fracking protest at Barton Moss 'changed forever' as landmark ruling comes into force

By Tom Rodgers
Picture by Albert@itookyourpic.com

Barton Moss Road was blocked by partying anti-fracking protesters today with IGas lorries unable to move for hours.

At around 8.30am this morning, Thursday 13 February, Tactical Aid Units from Greater Manchester Police appeared as normal to shepherd the IGas convoy down the narrow one-track private road.

Waiting for them at the entrance to Barton Moss Road was a group of protesters sitting in deckchairs, singing, dancing and having a picnic with food brought by local supporters.

Ordinarily the police would form a line across the road and start to move protesters the half-mile or so down towards the IGas drilling site.

But due to a landmark legal ruling this week it is pedestrians, rather than vehicles, who now have the right of way on the small one-track lane.

The lorry at the front of the convoy moved around 10ft in four hours. The other lorries were held up on the A57, although traffic was moving smoothly on the Barton stretch.

The character of the protest appears to have changed forever.

At Manchester Magistrates Court on Wednesday 12 February District Judge Quereshi judge ruled that Barton Moss Road is a public footpath - rather than a highway.

Police - somewhat caught in the middle between the desire of IGas to drill and protesters trying to protect their local community - have made over 100 arrests to remove protesters from the area, most on the charge of obstruction of a public highway, but are now apparently unable to move protesters along.

The legal test now in place says that as long as pedestrians are able to 'pass and re-pass' around the protest, there is no offence being committed.

In the past three months since the energy firm started to deliver daily truckloads of test drilling and support equipment, police have clashed with protesters as they attempt to slow the convoy's progress.

In a statement Greater Manchester Police told SalfordOnline.com: "During any protest public safety is always a priority for Greater Manchester Police. We have to ensure that we allow people to go about their lawful business, to ensure that we facilitate peaceful protest and that disruption to the local community is minimised.

"The law in this area is relatively complicated and as we get clarity from the courts we will obviously ensure our approach reflects that guidance. However, the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) can often conflict with this and we have an obligation to try and balance these proportionately.

Solicitor Simon Pook of Robert Lizar in Manchester memorably invoked Articles 10 and 11 of the ECHR to argue for the right to peaceful protest.

Greater Manchester Police continued: "The force do not take sides as long as people abide by the law but we are particularly concerned about the impact on the local community, during this protest, who will be there long after everyone else moves on."

SalfordOnline.com reporters have covered these daily protests in detail - see video here, here and here.

IGas have permission to drill a 3,000m (10,000ft) test well on a 1.8ha site on open green space between the A57 Liverpool Road and the M62, in the hope of discovering unconventional shale gas thought to be locked below the ground in the Bowland Shale.

Their lorries were stuck at the entrance to Barton Moss Road for around four hours.

Representatives from the Barton Moss Protection Camp then put forward the negotiation to the Bronze Commander on scene that they would allow one truck to make its way to the site as long as the seven or so others did not attempt to enter Barton Moss Road.

One truck was walked down to the IGas site while the others waited on the A57.

The protest continues.

Update: At 4.45pm the seven lorries still waiting to enter Barton Moss Road left the site. Anti-fracking protesters claimed victory.

Report as offensive or innapropriate Comment by Skodaman ( member )  14th February 2014
I guess that the judge was well paid for his "landmark ruling" when anyone could have found the solution by glancing at an Ordnance Survey map! I have a 40 year old Ordnance Survey map of the Barton Moss area in front of me now, I have many more recent ones, and this is what it says: Between 1951 and 1971 surveys were carried out in the Barton and surrounding areas. In 1974 the information gathered was revised for any major changes. Following this the Ordnance Survey Maps were produced and Barton Moss Road was designated as a Public Footpath. It still is today and we didn't need a guy in a wig and a gown to tell us so at great expense! However, if I am going up that "public footpath" in my car on private business and my way in blocked by picnickers on garden chairs then I will not be a happy teddy! Landowners do their best to prevent people walking on public rights of way through their land and I do not expect those at Barton, with this "victory" under their belts, to block others using the pathway. I've walked along Barton Moss Road for many years and if a vehicle approaches me I will step aside and let it pass. For 40 years pedestrians and vehicles have shared that space and there have been no problems until now. Will the next legal challenge of the protesters be to remove the word "Road" from the name of the "public footpath"? This could be the starting point...A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two places, which has been paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by some conveyance, including a horse, cart, or motor vehicle. Now rule on that Your Honour!!!

Report as offensive or innapropriate Comment by deBs ( member )  14th February 2014
We are supposed to entrust our environment and our health to people that can't even get access to their site right?!? The brave Protectors of Barton Moss are owed a massive thanks by everybody in Salford. YET AGAIN NON OF THIS IS BEING MENTIONED IN OUR BENT MAIN STREAM MEDIA!!!! DISGRACEFUL AND WORRYING!!!!

Report as offensive or innapropriate Comment by Thedoc73 ( member )  13th February 2014
Fantastic news for our community! - thanks to Barton Moss Protection Camp for their dedication to the cause!

Report as offensive or innapropriate Comment by polly31160 ( member )  13th February 2014
well done protectors keep up the good work, power to the people.

Report as offensive or innapropriate Comment by allan hayward ( member )  13th February 2014
Wonderful news. Thanks for the continuing coverage guys.

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