Surrey police investigate fire in caravan and cabin belonging to anti-drilling protesters

170915 caravan fire 2 Leith Hill Protection Camp

Destroyed caravan and remains of cabin belonging to Leith Hill Protection Camp, 15 September 2017

Surrey Police are appealing for information about a fire which destroyed a caravan and badly damaged a cabin belonging to opponents of oil exploration near Leith Hill.

Fire crews from Dorking and Leatherhead were called to the fire on Friday (15 September 2017) at about 4pm. The caravan and cabin were parked in a layby off Coldharbour Lane, near the site where Europa Oil and Gas has permission for drilling.

Pictures by Leith Hill Protection Camp (above and below) show the caravan had been burned to the ground. The cabin, which had been used for sleeping a few days earlier, was badly damaged and is no longer usable.

170915 caravan fire 3 Leith Hill Protection Camp

The inside of the damaged cabin. Picture: Leith Hill Protection Camp

Alice, a member of Leith Hill Protection Camp, said the fire started in the caravan, which was not being used.

“The caravan went up very quickly and the fire then spread to the cabin.

“I definitely think it was deliberate. It seems pretty clear it was arson.

“We had guests in the cabin just a few days earlier. They would have been badly hurt if they’d been asleep when it happened.

“We were shocked at first. It is not very pleasant being set on fire.

“But we are quite resilient and we are now dealing with removing the cabin.

“We are as determined as ever to oppose Europa’s plans.”

A police spokesperson said today:

“The Mole Valley Safer Neighbourhood Policing Team are making enquiries after two caravans in a layby on the Coldharbour lane, Dorking, were heavily damaged by fire on Friday evening (15/9).

“Officers were called to the scene by Surrey Fire and Rescue service around 16:20.

“The caravans were uninhabited at the time.

“Anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the area at around that time, or may have information to help officers with their enquiry, is asked to call Surrey Police on 101 quoting reference 45170101763.”

This is not the first time property belonging to the protection camp has apparently been targeted. About a month ago, the caravan appeared to have been rammed by a large vehicle, Alice said.

Europa has planning permission for 18 weeks of exploratory drilling at the site, known as Bury Hill Wood and Holmwood. The traffic management plan, a condition of the permission, is expected to be discussed by Surrey County Council’s planning committee on 18 October 2017. The site’s environmental permit and planning permissions for fencing have yet to be granted.

Opponents of the operation established the Leith Hill Protection Camp in October 2106 on the drilling site. The camp was evicted over two days in June 2017 and has since moved to the other side of Coldharbour Lane.

Since the eviction, five suppliers of equipment and services have said they will no longer work for Europa’s operation.

6 replies »

  1. Good one Mark- a little more research needed. What has this site to do with fracking?

    Leith Hill must be a pretty civilised area, compared with other parts of the country. To survive a few days unattended without being vandalised is pretty good going. Hope it was well insured, but not sure insurance would pay out under such circumstances.

  2. It’s probably wrong to leap to conclusions just yet, until the police examine the evidence, but the earlier damage may indicate a campaign of damage and intimidation by an individual or organised group?
    Maybe if that turns out to be the case, we will see the same level of protection that Europa get from the police for free, extended to protesters who pay for it ?
    We shall see.

  3. I think GBK that presumption would be speculation, bordering on fabrication-oh, I see what you mean.

    Unfortunately, we all know if you leave anything unattended/unguarded for any period of time, someone will want to vandalise it-even something as large and robust as a drilling rig! Perhaps it should be inside a security fence with a lot of security personnel protecting it and numerous policemen to protect them?

    I remember visiting a company site in Liverpool around 20 years ago who had suffered such mindless vandalism for a while, so spent out on expensive security cameras. They were nicked within a few hours of being installed. It’s a widespread issue, and money is not the usual motive-some people just want to be antisocial.

  4. [Edited by moderator]

    Europa are a sinking ship it seems. In fact, this is all that everyone is talking about at the moment.
    Many people who were previously indifferent or even supporting the drilling are retracting their support and who would blame them?

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