Cost of ‘eviction’ is ‘ridiculous’

Crawberry Hill Anti Fracking Protest Camp, Near Walkingron, Beverley
Crawberry Hill Anti Fracking Protest Camp, Near Walkingron, Beverley

Council’s bill to protesters is £75k following demolition of protest camp at Crawberry Hill, Walkington

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council spent around £75,000, excluding police costs, during an enforcement operation at a protest camp last week.

A grab from protester's video of the demolition

A grab from protester's video of the demolition

The figure came as a shock to one environmental campaigner who branded the sum “ridiculous” amid speculation demonstrators would be unable to foot the bill because it is “beyond the realms of possibility” .

Speaking from an anti-fracking demonstration in Preston, Lancashire on Tuesday, campaigner Richard Howarth said: “Although the East Riding of Yorkshire Council said in a press release they had an eviction order, they didn’t.

“We think it was an illegal eviction. It was not ‘rubbish’ they were cleaning up, it was people’s homes.

“They should foot the bill, there was a lack of proper public consultation and support.

“If the East Riding of Yorkshire Council were to demand that we cover the bill, not a lot will happen – it’s such a ridiculous figure and beyond the realms of possibility that campaigners could pay it back.”

However the Council said the £75,000 was needed for a range of repairs and improvements, and they will take “any and all legal recourse available to recover the costs from the protesters”.

Among the work carried out was the filling and cementing of an eight-foot tunnel under the Crawberry Hill Site access road, which the Council say had been excavated by protesters.

Further works included: the collection of six skips full of waste, which included large volumes of timber and building materials; repairs to the hedge line and verge, including the use of four tonnes of soil to fill holes where toilets had been dug and the removal, de-construction and recycling of building material from the site.

Nigel Leighton, director of environment and neighbourhood services, said: “The council had hoped that a common sense solution could have been reached but, following the refusal of the protesters to move the caravans and structures, the council had to act in the interests of public safety.

“The size and scale of structures that had developed on the highway over recent months had become a real hazard to motorists, the travelling public and the protesters themselves.”

The revelation of the figure came after many campaigners from the Crawberry Hill site travelled to a demonstration in Preston, where Lancashire County Council agreed to defer their decision on planning applications for two fracking sites in the county on Wednesday.

Mr Leighton added: “While the council fully supports the right to protest, the operational costs and ongoing spend related to this enforcement action, such as storage of possessions, administration, staff time and resources to restore the site, is shocking and comes at a time when budgets are being reduced. This is a pressure that both the council and Humberside Police could well do without.”