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THE LONDON TIMES: Fuel protesters say they made their point: “At the height of the protest up to 30 tractors and agricultural vehicles formed a rolling blockade at one of the gates to Shell’s refinery in Stanlow, Cheshire…” ( Posted 26 April 04


By Jenny Booth, Times Online


Farmers and hauliers who staged a protest at rising fuel prices this morning outside an oil refinery denied that the event turned out to be a damp squib.


At the height of the protest up to 30 tractors and agricultural vehicles formed a rolling blockade at one of the gates to Shell’s refinery in Stanlow, Cheshire, which was at the centre of nationwide demonstrations five years ago. The group arrived at 5am and slowly circled a roundabout.


But by lunchtime the protest had dwindled to just a handful of vehicles parked on the roundabout.


David Handley, a dairy farmer from Monmouth, South Wales, was a leading figure in the 2000 fuel protests and helped to organise today’s Farmers For Action demonstration. He said the blockade had been "very successful" and he was not disappointed.


"If you were here at 5am, you wouldn’t have thought it was a damp squib," said Mr Handley.


"We have done what we needed to do. There is not a household in the country that doesn’t realise now what we are up to.


"We have been successful in getting it to the top of the political agenda.".


Mr Handley said farmers were angry that current fuel prices were simply too high for food producers to cope with. Farmers currently pay 92.5p per litre for white diesel, more than 30p per litre for red diesel and 86.5p per litre for unleaded petrol, he said.


But a promise that more farmers would be coming to join the protests during the day failed to materialise, and the TGWU union which represents 3,000 tanker drivers declined to join the protest.


A spokeswoman for Cheshire Constabulary said that the protest was not the same as that in 2000, which saw fuel supplies around the country run dry.


Contradicting Mr Handley's claims that tankers had been prevented from leaving, she said: "The road is not blocked and tankers from the fuel depot are accessing and leaving the site routinely. There is no threat to any petrol supplies in any garages."


A spokeswoman for Shell agreed: "Tanker movements have not been disrupted and there has been no impact on supply."


The company had contingency plans in place to deal with a range of scenarios that may affect our operations, she added.


"We would like to reassure our customers that we will do our very best to ensure there is no interruption to supply and that our operations are running as normal.


"We respect the public’s right to demonstrate but would urge protesters to take into consideration the impact that their protest might have on the broader public."


Motorists looked set for little respite from high forecourt prices today. The price of a barrel of light crude rose 43 cents to $55.82US in New York, close to the all-time record of $58.28US seen at the start of April, as maintenance problems at a refinery in Louisiana continued.


The average cost of petrol at UK forecourts rose 4p a litre last month to stand at 85.92p a litre yesterday, according to the AA. It also said the cost of diesel stood at 90.03p a litre - well beyond the 84.2p level that sparked the last fuel protests of five years ago.


Edmund King, the executive director of the RAC Foundation, said that the Government was not to blame for the rising costs, since fuel duty has been frozen until September. He said: "There seems to be more of an understanding now that fluctuations are due to what’s happening on the world market.",,2-1584810,00.html


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