Cuadrilla - drop your £55,000 claim against Lancashire fracking 'Nana'!

Tina Rothery of The Nanas on an anti-fracking protest. Photo: The Nanas.
Tina Rothery of The Nanas on an anti-fracking protest. Photo: The Nanas.
A Lancashire grandmother is to appear in a Preston court tomorrow to defend a £55,000 claim pressed by fracking company Cuadrilla and its CEO Francis Egan for the costs of an eviction that never even took place, writes Oliver Tickell. Now a campaign calling on Cuadrilla to drop its unjust and oppressive legal action is gaining momentum - and its Egan who's on the defensive.
I have never seen a company behave as aggressively and for such a sustained period towards a single protestor on the matter of costs as in this case by Cuadrilla.

Tina Rothery, Lancashire Nana and anti-fracking campaigner, is being aggressively pursued for legal costs of over £55,000 and the likelihood of a possible two-week prison sentence.

Pursuing her for the 'debt' is the fracking company Cuadrilla, and its CEO Francis Egan who is being called upon by Tina's many supporters to "drop the case as completely unjustified".

Hundreds, including well-known figures such as Emma Thompson and Vivienne Westwood, are expected to gather outside Preston court tomorrow, Friday 9th December, when her case is heard, rallying under the banner #IamTinaToo.

Paul Ridge of Bindmans solicitors, representing Tina, said: "I have never seen a company behave as aggressively and for such a sustained period towards a single protestor on the matter of costs as in this case by Cuadrilla. It is made all the more oppressive when they know that there is nothing to be gained."

An open letter (reproduced in full below) calls on Cuadrilla to drop the case, however Cuadrilla's solicitors, Eversheds, have claimed in response that to withdraw their action would be a legal impossibility. Paul Ridge emphatically rejects that argument:

"The steps now being taken to seek payment have been started by your client and it would be possible for them to stop the action by confirming that they no longer seek costs from Ms Rothery and regard this matter as at an end ...

"It is not correct to suggest that this is simply a matter for the court. I have no doubt that the court would not continue to seek information if your client confirmed that they regarded the matter as closed and the debt was no longer being sought from Ms Rothery.

"Plainly the court will not want to engage in pointless further examination of matters if the claimant is no longer seeking ancient legal costs and views the matter as concluded."

£55,000 costs for an eviction that never took place

The dispute began at 5am on 7th August 2014 when a group of 26 people from Lancashire naming ourselves 'The Nanas', occupied a field on Preston New Road, near Blackpool, Lancashire. As Tina later wrote in The Ecologist:

"The police and landowner were informed on the day, that this would last for three weeks and we would vacate on 26th August. Later press releases, online blogs and social media posts made this leaving date public too.

No damage was done but a huge amount was achieved during those three weeks; with neighbours bringing ice and fresh bread daily, the local milkman dropping off when he could and so many conversations and information days that 'Frack Free Lancashire' signs multiplied throughout the area and neighbours became 'community'.

I have never seen a company behave as aggressively and for such a sustained period towards a single protestor on the matter of costs as in this case by Cuadrilla.

On the day we left, we completed a fingertip-search of the field, filmed this and our departure and delivered a note to the land owner explaining we were gone and all was tidy. We informed the press and police as well. Cuadrilla (through the landowner) 'evicted' the clean, empty field on 27th August 2016. We found ourselves in court on the 28th."

Tina Rothery then volunteered to be the 'named defendant' in the action and is now being pursued by Cuadrilla in person. She in turn has stated that she is completely unable to pay the sum claimed, and even if she could pay it, she would refuse on principle:

"I will not pay any amount. More than the simple fact of not being able to pay, this is about reaching my own line-in-the-sand point in this long struggle. I believe our law courts should be about seeing true justice, not as a weapon against opposition. Our law courts and legal system are a costly indulgence that eats time and money that activists just don't have."

Former conservative cabinet minister John Gummer, now Lord Deben has now joined the call for the case to be dropped, tweeting:

Why not green gas?

Green energy firm Ecotricity has also challenged Cuadrilla and the wider the shale gas industry today by submitting planning applications for rival 'green gas' mills on proposed fracking sites in Lancashire including the Preston New Road site where Tina's occupation took place, and nearby Roseacre Wood.

In a new report released last month, Green Gas: The Opportunity for Britain, Ecotricity unveiled a national plan for Britain to get its gas through a new and sustainable method, using species-rich grass grown on farmland.

The report found that there is enough grassland to provide almost all of Britain's household gas demand by 2035 - in the process creating a new industry supporting 150,000 jobs and pumping £7.5 billion into the economy every year.   

"Green gas will make big cuts to carbon emissions, create wildlife habitats on an unprecedented scale, support food production by improving soils, and provide support for farmers who are set to lose EU subsidies following Brexit", the company claims.

Ecotricity recently won planning permission to build its first Green Gas Mill in Hampshire - one of six sites in development. The company says its latest applications at potential fracking sites in Lancashire "are part of a wider strategic campaign to prevent shale gas exploitation, highlight the lack of democracy in the planning process ­and illustrate there is an alternative way to make our gas."

Letter text  in full: drop Tina's case!

Dear Mr Egan,

We are writing to urge you to end Cuadrilla's legal action against Tina Rothery, a peaceful anti-fracking campaigner facing over £55,000 legal costs and a possible two-week jail sentence following the supposed eviction of campaigners on 27th August 2014 from a site you hope to frack.

The bailiffs in fact 'evicted' an empty field. As Cuadrilla, the landowner and the public were made aware, the protesters were always going to leave on 26th August. They did this, having fully cleaned the site after their three-week stay and caused no damage.

In the light of this, the decision to incur large legal costs for eviction and to pursue one individual for these looks like a deliberate strategy to deter other protesters. Tina now faces a potential two-week jail sentence for refusing to comply with the Court Order, which she did because she considers Cuadrilla's case against her to be unjust, bullying and an abuse of perfectly legitimate campaigners to deter protest.  The intention to vacate the site was communicated to Cuadrilla and so there was no need for the action you took.

Tina has shown extraordinary bravery. When this legal action was brought and a named defendant was needed, she volunteered to prevent one of her fellow Lancashire Nanas, perhaps someone caring for children or elderly parents, being victimised.

Tina is an ordinary citizen seeking to exercise her right of protest against an industry which, according to Government opinion polls, is more unpopular than ever because of the risks it poses to our health, to our local and global environment and to our communities.

Lancashire County Council supported local people's objections and refused Cuadrilla's application to test-drill, frack and flow-test shale gas wells at two sites. Following an appeal, the Government has decided to overturn one refusal and probably both.

You may have won a legal argument, but, as far as we the undersigned and the people of Lancashire are concerned, you have not won a democratic or moral argument. You may have the permission of the Government to frack in Lancashire, but you do not have the permission of the people of Lancashire. Fracking is being imposed on Lancashire against its will.

You have described the fracking opportunities in the UK as 'an absolute game-changer'. We agree: fracking could be a game changer - for the climate. According to Oil Change International, potential carbon emissions from oil, gas, and coal in the world's currently operating fields (without new fracking) and mines would take us beyond 2C of warming, let alone the 1.5C which the Paris climate agreement requires us to pursue efforts towards. If we cannot afford to burn the gas we currently have, what is the point of looking for more?

We urge you to drop Tina's case, allow peaceful protest and halt the drilling - for all our futures.

Yours sincerely,

Emma Thompson    
Vivienne Westwood    
Josh Fox, Filmmaker
Raoul Martinez, Artist, writer, filmmaker
Francesca Martinez, Comedian
Anthony Tombling, Filmmaker
Suzanne Jeffery, Campaign against Climate Change
Donna Hume, Friends of the Earth
John Sauven, Greenpeace
Ellie Groves, Reclaim the Power
Danielle Paffard,
Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now
Caroline Lucas, Green Party
Jonathan Bartley, Green Party
Natalie Bennett, Green Party
Manuel Cortes, TSSA
Chris Baugh, PCS
Matt Wrack, FBU
Tony Kearns, Communication Workers Union
Ian Hodson, Bakers, Food & Allied Workers union
Graham Petersen, Greener Jobs Alliance.



Action: Facebook event for the #IamTinaToo protest.

Twitter: #IAmTinaToo

Petition: Ecotricity has launched a petition urging the Government to reconsider where Britain will get its gas from in future: Green Gas or Fracking - Let the People choose.

Main source:

Oliver Tickell is contributing editor at The Ecologist.

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