Police have warned protesters outside an exploratory oil site near Gatwick airport they would be arrested if they tried to slow down vehicles delivering equipment.
The well at Horse Hill, nicknamed the Gatwick Gusher, is being tested for the flow rate of oil.
The rig was installed yesterday and today protesters continued to slow down deliveries.
Lisa Scott, who lives within half a mile of the site, said this afternoon two protesters had “slow-walked” in front of a lorry loaded with chemicals.
“They were warned by police they would be arrested if they did it again.”
She said there were four police cars at the site today and a small number of protesters.
“The police were obviously aware that a lorry was on its way because they opened the gate to the site.”
Police have tolerated “slow-walking” protests by anti-fracking and anti-drilling campaigners at other sites in the UK, including Balcombe in West Sussex.
Last month, a court in Manchester cleared two campaigners of aggravated trespass after walking in front of trucks at the IGas site at Barton Moss. The district judge in that case said it had not been proved that the protest had interfered unreasonably with the lawful use of the road (DrillOrDrop report)
We asked Surrey Police to comment on the arrest warning. A spokesperson said:
“Surrey Police officers will continue to monitor activity at the Horse Hill site and will liaise with all relevant parties as work at the site continued”.
“Surrey Police will always facilitate peaceful protest and will only take action if activity at the site causes a breach of the peace or results in a public order offence.”
“Obstructing a highway is a criminal offence and anyone found to be doing so at the site will be issued with a series of verbal warnings by officers. If individuals consistently fail to desist from such activity they could face arrest.”
“It is important to stress that Surrey Police takes a balanced approach and arresting an individual will always be a last resort.”
A consortium of companies is involved in appraising the Horse Hill, including UK Oil and Gas Investments Ltd. Its chief executive, Stephen Sanderson, said last year the discovery of oil at the well was “world class”. He estimated there could be anything up to 100bn barrels of oil across the Weald Basin.
Ms Scott said: “I think what they are doing here is way too risky. We’ve seen reports coming out of the US and Australia about the contamination of private water supplies”.
“I think we should only be using fossil fuel hydrocarbons for really valuable things. The government should reinstate and increase the feed-in tariff for solar so that there is a significant number of panels on roofs generating electricity for the national grid.”
She said the companies operating the site had contacted the nearest neighbours but had not talked to the wider local community.
“This shows them to be people who are not interested in working with the local community. They have installed these big barriers at the site with CCTV. They have totally excluded themselves.”
The Horse Hill well was drilled to about 4,000ft in 2014. The flow test is expected to last for 30 days.
David Lenigas, the former chairman of UKOG, said the Horse Hill well would not be fracked. But local anti-fracking campaigners have questioned this. The largest potential find from Horse Hill is in tight rocks and it has been described as a hybrid of conventional and unconventional oil.
Ms Scott likened Mr Lenigas’s promise to people planting an apple tree who said they would not pick fruit from the highest branches. She asked:
“When you’ve picked all the apples on the low branches are you really going to ignore the ones on the top that are left?”
More pictures from the Horse Hill exploratory oil site today here
Updated at 19.48 on 3rd February to include Surrey Police statement
Quite honestly.. The lady commenting in this article needs a reality check. The United Kingdom cannot rely on solar energy and green energy alone. 1. Solar/sun is not reliable in the UK. To store this power for night time use we need batteries which are powered by lithium not green. We still need fossil fuels to pay for green gas development and as a back up if something goes wrong as result of climate change, which will affect so called green energy for better or worse. To simply stop the UK energy plans so that someone can keep a horse rather than provide energy for 60 million people is both ridiculous and daft. I live in this area and would gladly accept compensation and move if this will answer the countries energy needs.
Interesting comment from the opponent. It is always has a sense of ‘no we should not use fossil fuel’ (which is sensible) and ‘yes we should use more solar’ (which is also sensible) but ‘with more subsidies and feed-in-tariff for solar and wind’ (which is not so sensible because without fossil fuel the economies will come to a stand-still and no tax revenue to subsidise renewable). And so it seems their protests against fracking is about revenue rather than ideology of renewables. And if it is about ideology of renewables than they should be happy to take up renewable at market price without asking for subsidies which only benefit the rich who has the land/houses to install and can afford to pay to the solar panel and wind turbine upfront. Not for the majorities of the poor who don’t own land or a rooftop.
There has to come a point where a concerted and unequivocal drive to establish renewables is made to happen. The issue of global warming influenced by anthropogenic activities has been long established. I first read about it in 1971 in the New Scientist and followed the issue ever since.
The oil industry in particular do not wish to attend to this – they also have known about the issues affecting climate change and have chosen to influence governments and vested interests in order to avoid dealing with the causes and consequences of global warming.
All too often those that chose to accept science that in ways conveniences them – such a medical benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, communication benefits, a million and one other benefits – for some bizarre reason develop a kind of communication problem when it comes to the science of climate change.
It is basically very simple – it’s all about thermal capacity. If the distribution of gasses in the atmosphere tip gradually towards an increasing density of gasses with a high thermal capacity, the overall temperature of the atmosphere and all that come into contact with it are going to be affected – in this case negatively from our point of view – temperatures will go up – as they are gradually doing.
It’s all right saying that CO2, the current villain, can be reduced and absorbed by vegetation which needs CO2 to photosynthesise and create oxygen, it’s quite another thing to say that overall nature can cope with the accumulating mass of CO2 in the atmosphere when it can’t. Man made CO2 is a big problem for nature – it can’t process it fast enough to keep the atmosphere at level that suits our wellbeing. If the resulting temperature increase carries on, the incidence of a far more lethal gas from a GW point of view rises – by between 20 and 80 %. Methane gas has a much higher thermal capacity than CO2 and its contribution will drive up temperatures to very dangerous levels indeed and way past a point where we can have any influence over it.
There is no time left. CO2 remains in the atmosphere for long periods. If you put it there don’t expect it will go away any time soon. Hundreds of years. Methane disperses much quicker but will cause a huge amount of damage. So it is essential that the contribution to an already exacerbated situation is reduced dramatically. Renewables is the main answer, plus Renaturalisation (not artificialisation) – plus dramatic reductions in energy use.
For all the benefits of products produced from oil, from all the perceived hypocracy of Eco-warriors driving cars – get on with the transformation so that they can drive around in electric cars. They will if they are there and are affordable. Change the laws that discriminate against the protectors so that they can make their impact felt in bringing about change.
You have to look at the economics of disaster in a more practical light. Point a finger at a Eco-Warriors heading for a Protection Site by all means, but weigh up the cost of fuel they use compared to the fuel a huge truck uses and the contribution they make to the extraction and production of oil and the subsequent transportation and distribution of it. I doubt if it will be of equal measure.
Sometimes you do have to fight fire with fire. The technology is there to assist change. Speak and act with determination to bring change rather than finding excuses to maintain it. It is the same kind of argument thrashed out during the drive to abolish slavery. ‘Oh, we can’t end slavery because it will ruin our economy.’ Thus spoke the colonialists that had appropriated other territories and raped the resources – mineral, vegetable and anthropological. Has the economy collapsed? Do we still have slaves? Do we live in a fairer world? Perhaps not – maybe a lot more needs to be done. But if we don’t deal with Climate Change you can be sure of one thing – we will all be slaves at the mercy of our own foolishness and greed.
We need to return to a planet of abundance and abandon the desert of excess.
[Comment edited at contributor’s request to correct one word]