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The BBC's Alastair Leithead
"They intend to blockade the Shell plant overnight"
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The BBC's Matthew Richards
"The police are keeping at a distance at the moment"
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Friday, 8 September, 2000, 02:35 GMT 03:35 UK
Refinery hit by fuel protesters
Stanlow refinery
Farmers used tractors to block the refinery entrance
Around 100 farmers and lorry drivers are continuing their blockade of a Cheshire oil refinery in protest at rising fuel prices.

Protesters travelled from north Wales, Cheshire, Lancashire, Staffordshire and Shropshire to join the demonstration outside the Shell Oil Refinery at Stanlow near Ellesmere Port.

They are blocking the refinery entrance with tractors, preventing tankers from entering the site.

A hardcore of protesters are planning to keep up the blockade and it seems likely their numbers will be bolstered by other campaigners from Friday morning.

There were angry scenes on Thursday evening as one lorry tried to drive at speed through a gap in the barrier, prompting several farmers to leap on the moving vehicle and attempt to stop the engine.

We are not prepared to let our industries go down the pan like other major UK industries have done

David Handley
Farmers for Action UK

Protesters' spokesman Brynle Williams said: "The farmers and road hauliers have now combined and have come to demonstrate their displeasure with the cost of fuel and with the possibility of a three or four pence increase.

"The industries just cannot survive any more. So we decided to come here to Stanlow and make our voices heard."

The protest was sparked by meetings at markets in the north Wales towns of Ruthin and St Asath earlier on Thursday.

Mr Williams said farmers had been lobbying MPs for more than three years, claiming that the cost of living in the countryside had become impossible.

Farmers for Action UK chairman David Handley told BBC News 24 that the demonstration would escalate into "a winter of unrest" unless the government responded to its demands for lower fuel prices.

As most of France ground to a halt on Thursday with identical protests, Mr Handley said members of the UK's farming and haulage industries would fight for prices comparable with elsewhere in Europe.

He said: "We have got to be given a level playing field in Britain to be able to compete in the European market."

'Enough is enough'

Mr Handley pointed out that the French were protesting about fuel prices which are already 25p lower than in Britain.

"We are demonstrating the fact that enough is enough," he said.

"We do not want to do this but, unfortunately, no-one seems to listen to us so we have decided to follow our counterparts in France.

"This is going to be an ongoing situation and I would suggest it is going to be a winter of unrest.

"We are sorry for the inconvenience we have caused but we are not prepared to let our industries go down the pan like other major UK industries have done."

Police have not yet made any attempts to move the protesters on.

Over 500 members of the Less Tax on Fuel group have pledged to join the protest from Friday and over the weekend in shifts and there have been calls to begin blockades of other refineries throughout the UK.

Rhys Park, of the Less Tax on Fuel Group, said: "This has been brewing up now for a period of over five months. A lot of our members have been calling for direct action for some time but have been afraid to do it.

"Now the farmers have taken the first step on the ladder and we intend to continue it."

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See also:

07 Sep 00 | Business
Petrol price rise anger
07 Sep 00 | Europe
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British make own blockade
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12 Jan 00 | Business
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