Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Monday, 25 January 2010

Arrests as open cast mine protesters face eviction

Mainshill Wood Solidarity camp
There are about 60 protesters at the site in South Lanarkshire

At least 19 climate change protesters have been arrested after sheriff officers and police moved in to evict them from a wood in South Lanarkshire.

The Mainshill Wood Solidarity camp was set up to oppose plans for an open cast mine near the village of Douglas.

Campaigners, who have built barricades and tunnels, said sheriff officers and up to 30 police officers had arrived at the site on Monday morning.

They said they had expected to be moved but warned they would resist eviction.

Scottish Coal has been given permission to mine about 1.7 million tonnes of coal from the site located on Lord Home's Douglas estate.

Protester being lifted into police van at Mainshill Wood
Protesters who had locked themselves in tree houses were arrested

Some of the campaigners have spent the past seven months camping in the woods in protest against the planned open cast mine.

One of the protesters, who gave his name as Richard, said: "We had a tip-off that the police and bailiffs were going to arrive this morning.

"They moved in about half past eight and just began pushing down our barricades. We're definitely here for the long-haul and plan to stay at least the week.

"We're going to make this eviction as hard and as expensive as possible. We came here because local people felt they were being ignored and we've been working to oppose this mine together."

Many local people have voiced their opposition to the new coal mine citing concerns about the impact it would have on their health and the environment.

The sheriff officers working with Strathclyde Police and the national eviction team will carry out the ejection of the protesters
Douglas and Angus Estate

About 800 letters of objection were sent to South Lanarkshire Council.

There are five other open cast mines in the area around Douglas.

Up to 60 people are believed to be involved in the protest at the site, with up to half arriving over the weekend following the tip-off about possible eviction.

Lindsay Addison, who chairs Douglas Community Council, said the protesters had the backing of local people and he claimed the community had been betrayed over their opposition to the mine.

"Sadly there will be people rubbing their hands with glee about this," he said.

"Senior representatives of the local community have stabbed us in the back. Money has bent people in the wrong direction.

"It is only a matter of time before people realise the mistakes they have made and consider the disastrous effects an open cast mine will have on the wider community both locally and globally."

Protester in tree at Mainshill Wood Solidarity Camp
Protesters have locked themselves onto tree branches at the camp

The national eviction team, which includes specially trained climbers, has been employed to remove the protesters from the tree houses and tunnels they have constructed.

Those in charge of the eviction said the safety of the protesters, and those working to remove them, was key.

A spokesman for the landowner, the Douglas and Angus estate, said the protest camp was illegal and a warrant to evict the protesters had been granted by the sheriff at Lanark.

He added: "A notice was served requiring the protesters vacate Mainshill on or before Tuesday 7 July 2009.

"They did not vacate the property and during the intervening period have orchestrated a series of incidents designed to both disrupt the estate's lawful activities and to cause damage to private property in and around Mainshill.

"The sheriff officers working with Strathclyde Police and the national eviction team will carry out the ejection of the protesters."

The spokesman said the eviction team would not rush the operation.

Campaigners outside the camp claimed more than 20 protesters remained dug-in to the tunnels and tree houses and intended to stay for as long as possible.

Protester, Richard, added: "It took a week to clear a similar camp opposing the Dalkeith by-pass a few years ago, and we are lot bigger than they were, so I think the sheriff officers and police will be here for a while."

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