Anti-fracking protesters camped off Preston New Road near Cuadrilla's fracking site have been evicted.
Specialist evictions experts Able Enforcements from Bristol said it had removed a dozen squatters from an anti-fracking protest camp on private land near Blackpool on Tuesday.
It said illegal trespass and fears of contamination of the land prompted a local business to call the firm to the site, after the protestors repeatedly refused requests to leave.
A team of more than 30 officers from Able Enforcements – bailiffs, security guards and dog handlers – joined with Specialist Group International, specialists in removing protestors from trees, to execute the eviction at daybreak.
The action was undertaken, following consultation with Lancashire Constabulary, without the need for a court order but using Common Law rights to remove trespassers from private land. Police were in attendance throughout the eviction.
Operation Blackpool took place at the so-called Camp of New Hope, private land in a small copse off Preston New Road and around a mile from Cuadrilla’s nearby fracking site. The Government recently announced a moratorium on fracking, until or unless the activity is proven safe.
Steve Wood, operations director at Able Enforcements, said: “This was a challenging job and a complicated site – these squatters have been here for more than three years, were well entrenched and are experienced protestors.
“Fortunately, we’ve met most of these individuals before – we see the same people at jobs all over the country – so we knew what to expect in terms of aggression, abuse and violence.
“Our main priority was to act with speed and surprise, to prevent them locking themselves to structures or trees, or to call up reinforcements from nearby camps.
“We set strict guidelines for our personnel of how to treat the protestors, to avoid any false accusations that they’ve been mistreated in any way. Our expertise is in managing these situations quickly, securely and according to the law which we are employed to uphold.
“We understand that the local community here is against the fracking industry – that’s not our concern. There is a private landlord here who has suffered from the illegal activity of these squatters and it is our job to remove them.”
Mr Wood said the company is dealing with around 20 evictions of squatters, travellers and protestors from public and private sites each month, with clients across the UK including local authorities, private landowners and oil and gas firms.