Councillor calls for meeting with police as tensions increase over landfill protest arrests

A Labour councillor has called for action “to remedy community tensions” as three more protesters were this week arrested at the latest Walleys Quarry demonstration.

The three protestors were detained on Tuesday during a protest about the smell coming from the landfill site in Silverdale, Staffordshire. The three arrested campaigners - who have not been named - are now due to be questioned by officers.

Councillor Andrew Fox-Hewitt wrote to the police, fire and crime commissioner Ben Adams, claiming that police action against the protesters appeared to be “planned, organised and premeditated”.

He said: “The right to join with fellow neighbours in protest or peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy... Unfortunately, law enforcement representatives sometimes violate this right through means intended to thwart free public expression.”

Fox-Hewitt therefore called for a meeting between police and community leaders, “in order to ensure the rights of members of our local community are not contravened, and that our police officers are not being used in any political agenda, whilst also seeking to remedy current community tensions”.

READ MORE: England’s most notorious landfill: the story so far

Local residents have been complaining of a stench emanating from the landfill site for many months. In April, people living near the site became increasingly desperate for respite from the smells, with the Environment Agency (EA) receiving more than one thousand complaints in a single week. 

The EA and the operator of Walleys Quarry have been in conversation, with the operator making adjustments to its operations as guided, but the smell has not improved, according to those living in the vicinity. 

Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council has allocated a £1m war chest to fight the operator and has declared the landfill a statutory nuisance, while local residents have applied for a judicial review against the EA for failing to act. 

A police spokesman on Tuesday told Stoke on Trent Live: "Officers from Staffordshire Police have been dealing with a spontaneous protest outside Walleys Quarry which began at approximately 7.15am this morning.

"Officers were present to limit disruption to the local community and the road network.

Despite significant engagement and numerous appeals a number of protestors would not end the blockade and three men, all from the Newcastle area, were arrested at the scene.

"A 31-year-old has been arrested on suspicion of wilfully obstructing a highway with a non-motor vehicle. A 23-year-old and a 31-year-old have been arrested on suspicion of wilful obstruction of the highway. They all remain in custody."

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