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