Former Lancashire teacher among anti fracking protestors convicted after trial

Three generations of the same family - including a 73-year-old pensioner - have been found guilty of wilfully obstructing a highway following a protest against a controversial fracking site at Preston New Road, near Blackpool.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 24th January 2018, 2:26 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th January 2018, 3:35 pm
The campaigners at Preston Magistrates' Court
The campaigners at Preston Magistrates' Court

Former Fylde teacher Gillian Kelly, 73, of Dilly Garth, Ambleside, Cumbria, had denied the offence at Little Plumpton along with her son Sebastian Kelly, 48, of the same address, and granddaughter Megan Kelly, 20, of The Meadows, Yealand Redmayne, Carnforth.

Also convicted were Paul Martyn, 61, of Dilly Garth, Ambleside, Cumbria,, Molly Hopkinshaw, 27, of Court Hill, Hardwick, Reading, Beatrice Patrick, 27, of Queen Elizabeths Walk, Hackney, London, and and Toby Fairlove, 55, of Venton House, Darlington, Devon.The defendants carried out a “lock-on” protest action at Preston New Road fracking site near Blackpool in Lancashire in July 2017 under the banner of Families Against Fracking.

The protestors locked their arms into reinforced box-mounted tubes to block access to the site.

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They argue they were raising awareness of the dangers of fracking to water, land, health and the climate.

The action was part of the ‘Rolling Resistance’, a month of action at the Lancashire fracking site coordinated by pressure group Reclaim the Power.

All the defendants were given a six month conditional discharge and must pay a £30 victim surcharge.

All except Megan Kelly must pay £250 costs.

In her ruling, district judge Jane Goodwin noted the group's "deep integrity" and "strong moral compass".

The trial follows more than 300 arrests at the Cuadrilla site last year as people protest against the project, which was rejected for planning permission by the local County Council – only for it to be overturned by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid.

Afterwards Gillian, who has lived in Pilling and Knott End, and taught at Layton Convent School in Blackpool, said: “Today’s ruling went against us but we feel proud of our actions and on the right side of history. We hope we may have inspired others to take a stand against fracking in whichever way they can.”

Sebastian Kelly added: “Public opinion is increasingly set against fracking and more and more people are becoming inspired to join the campaign against it.

"Our action taught me that we really can change things, and I believe that we really can stop fracking in its tracks.”

Granddaughter Megan Kelly, 20: “I felt apprehensive taking the action we did - but a little anxiety is nothing compared to the disastrous climate change that fracking and other fossil fuel use threatens.”