Fracking site at Preston New Road to see 24-hour police presence
A Lancashire fracking site is to receive round-the-clock policing due to an increase in protests, according to the local force.
Neighbouring forces are currently helping Lancashire Constabulary at the site near Preston as campaigners stage a month of civil disobedience.
Drilling is expected to begin at the site by the end of August.
A force spokesman said extra officers would help "ensure the safety of protesters, staff and the public".
The site, run by energy firm Cuadrilla, has been the scene of daily demonstrations since January.
A force spokesman said the decision to move to 24-hour policing, which amounted to 50 to 80 officers every day, was due to increased protester activity over the last week.
Campaign group Reclaim The Power began a month of direct action protests at the site in Little Plumpton at the start of July.
Cuadrilla, which was granted permission to work at the site by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid in 2016, has said drilling is due to start in the summer with fracking a few months later.
It would mean for the first time, UK shale rock will be drilled horizontally, a process which has prompted environmental concerns.
In April, Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said the monthly cost of policing the site was £450,000.
The Lancashire Constabulary spokesman said between January and June, the additional policing costs - which do not include "the cost of those officers that are assigned to policing the site on a day-to-day basis" - had been about £625,000.
Mr Grunshaw, who has previously written to Mr Javid about the cost of policing, said the protests have had a "huge impact" and it was "unfair" for people in Lancashire to shoulder the "drain" on the police budget.
He said officers from Cumbria, Merseyside and North Wales were supplementing the police presence at the site to deal with "professional protestors".
Mr Grunshaw also
Anti-fracking protester Tina Rothery, who has been demonstrating at the site entrance since January, said she was "stunned" at the decision to supply round-the-clock policing.
She said it was a "complete waste of money" and the "blame" for the cost "lies with both Cuadrilla and the government for its decision to overrule such strong local opposition to this industry".
A spokesman for the energy firm criticised the "reckless and in many cases illegal behaviour of a small number of professional activists" in stretching Lancashire's police force "to the limit".
"Cuadrilla is going about its law abiding business and unreservedly condemns the self-serving and selfish actions of these so-called protesters".
Reclaim the Power has held protests at other sites, including at PR Marriott Drilling in Chesterfield, due to its perceived links with Cuadrilla.
Anti-fracking campaigners said the drill to be used in Lancashire has been housed at the site, a claim that was neither confirmed nor denied by Cuadrilla for "commercial reasons".
The drill suffered "a large amount of criminal damage" in May, according to Derbyshire Police.