Greater Manchester Police accused of disproportionate force as policing cost of anti-fracking protest set to reach £1m
Force investigating 21 complaints against officers - including a number of "serious allegations"
The cost of policing a two-month anti-fracking protest is set to reach £1m amid accusations by campaigners of police violence and disproportionate levels of force being deployed to ensure drilling can go ahead.
The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) Sir Peter Fahy, said the daily demonstrations at Barton Moss in Salford were diverting manpower away from crime investigations and community operations.
Opponents of the controversial fracking technique, in which gas is blasted from rocks using water and sand, have been camped out since November on the side of a lane opposite an exploratory drilling site run by IGas, the operator of the largest number of onshore oil and gas wells in Britain.
It is claimed that up to 100 officers are routinely deployed against 30 protesters. So far 117 people have been arrested and 114 charged with a variety of offences including obstruction and breach of bail.
Frack Free Manchester, the environmental group opposing drilling, has accused GMP of over-reacting. The force’s professional standards department is investigating 21 complaints including a number of “serious allegations” against officers. Daily demos have seen protesters chain themselves to equipment and block the paths of lorries making deliveries to the heavily guarded site.
One protester claimed he had been left badly bruised after being pushed to the ground by police. On another occasion officers mounted a search of the makeshift camp after allegations that a flare was fired at a police helicopter flying overhead.
Sir Peter said the cost of policing the protest, which must be met out of existing budgets, was £660,000 and set to reach seven figures by the time the current exploratory drilling phase is completed in March. Last week it emerged that council tax payers in Greater Manchester were being asked to pay an extra £5 a year to counter £100m in cuts faced by the force.
Sir Peter said officers were constantly provoked and insulted during angry exchanges with anti-frackers. “We have to be there to ensure the protest is peaceful and to balance the rights of the protesters and those wanting to carry out drilling on the site which are both lawful activities. The police are stuck in the middle,” he said.
Local resident Helen Chuntso of Frack Free Greater Manchester said many of those taking part in the campaign were elderly. “On an average day there will be 30 peaceful protesters and 20 police vans full of officers,” she said. “One of the questions coming from local people is why they are paying out of the public purse for a private corporation to have that level of policing.”
A spokeswoman for IGas confirmed that it was not contributing towards the cost of the policing operation.
“Our priority is to try to ensure that there is minimal disruption to the residents and businesses of Barton Moss Road and the surrounding areas as we go about our operations, which have all the necessary planning and permitting consents,” she said.
The company has signed a deal with Peel Holdings, owner of MediaCity and the Manchester Ship Canal, to search for unconventional energy across its land in the North West of England.
After examining the results of the exploratory drilling, IGas could seek planning permission to conduct further flow tests at Barton Moss. The company estimates there could be up to 170 trillion cubic feet of gas in the region – the equivalent of more than 50 years of UK consumption. A two month anti-fracking protest in Balcombe, West Sussex last summer cost £3m in policing.
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
Migrants crossing the Mediterranean: Pope Francis joins calls for EU action on boat refugees
Yemen crisis: Meet the child soldiers who have forsaken books for Kalashnikovs
Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
Isis in Afghanistan: Group claims responsibility for Jalalabad suicide bombing that killed 35
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...