Opponents of oil exploration at Horse Hill near Gatwick Airport have now occupied the drill site for more than 36 hours.
They said they entered at 4.30am yesterday to raise awareness of climate change, air and water pollution and industrialisation of the countryside. DrillOrDrop report
Bailiffs moved a small number of protesters off the site yesterday and took away materials and food. But one of the campaigners told DrillOrDrop more people entered overnight as temperatures fell to about 2 degrees C.
The campaigner said:
“More and more people came to support the occupation. People were able to get in with supplies last night.
“The security guards left by about 8pm yesterday. They appeared this morning at the back of the site.”
Officers from Surrey Police visited the site entrance yesterday but a spokesperson for the force they had not been back today.
A police statement said:
“At 5am yesterday we attended following reports of protests at Horse Hill. We made sure the area was safe and no arrests were made. Officers left the scene at midday.”
The campaigners have installed two large tripod structures, a scaffolding tower and tree houses. They have also pitched a tent on the site and parked vehicles in front of the gates.
A Facebook post from the group this afternoon said:
“We have had a good day at the site not too many security and lots of visitors and donations and loads of support!!! We are still here and occupying. All donations welcome and more numbers in camp the better so come and join us.”
DrillOrDrop invited UK Oil and Gas Investments plc, the main investor in the Horse Hill site, to comment on the occupation. This post will be updated with any response.
The site operator, Horse Hill Developments Ltd, received planning permission last month for two more oil exploration wells and extended flow testing of these and the existing well.
Horse Hill became known as the “Gatwick Gusher” when the initial flow tests produced results described as “world class”. The operator, Horse Hill Developments Ltd, is exploring for oil in the Kimmeridge Limestone and Portland Sandstone.
Interesting to observe that the ropes, sheets and I guess much more are made from poison plastics. Furthermore, it is highly likely these items are made in countries with far less regard for the freedom of protest or concern for the environment we have in the UK. I have little time for this kind of hypocrisy.
Confusing statement Fred. Hypocrisy? If I understand you correctly, what you appear to be saying is, Freedom of protest = Good Thing, exercising the right to freedom of protest = Bad Thing. Here’s what I might find hypocritical: claiming to be extracting oil and gas deposits safely when there is a huge body of evidence supporting the notion that ‘stimulation’ of underground deposits of shale gas and oil is very rarely ‘safe’. And then there’s the big lie about the ‘need’ for oil and gas. Alternatives are already available, and were they supported by vested interests to the extent of the oil and gas industries it’s highly likely that they’d be both viable and fully operational by now. Similarly, were there government support for the development of alternatives to plastic, we’d, in all likelihood, have solutions with regard to that as well. Why do you support unconventional onshore oil and gas exploitation Fred? I’d be interested to know. Very best wishes, Jonathan.
@Jonathan, an apparently simple question, with very complex answers. I can only give a small insight here, but to start with – I am all for development of alternative and environmentally benign ways of sustaining our modern society and standard of living. Then there are the “buts” we are not there yet and won’t be for many a long year. There may be in the future, alternatives to petroleum based plastics and progress is being made. But there is a very long way to go yet. Plastic pollution is not caused by the plastics themselves, its caused 100% by people. Plastics can not be un-invented. The UK has moved decisively away from coal fired power generation and I’m generally OK with that (though probably for different reasons than others here). Presently (and it will change but not yet) we need on a MW for MW basis gas fired plant to keep the lights on and balance the grid, for the same reasons we also need base load nuclear power too. it’s likely we’ll need less nuclear base load than is planned, but a lot of it is unlikely to be built any way in my view. So, we have synthetic polymers, power generation both fossil and nuclear in addition to the renewables. Everyone seems to be happy with the plastic tarpaulins, the plastic ropes, the mobile phones, all the other modern life essentials that demand the use of oil/gas based polymers most of which are imported directly or as part of something else. Likewise, everyone seems content that our countries fleet on CCGT power stations is run on imported gas to keep the lights on. What little polymer production we still have in the UK is now run mainly on ethane imported from the USA, where the source is tight gas. Like wise the gas that runs our CCGT stations is delivered from Norway as gas and from Qatar as LNG. In importing all the liquid ethane, liquefied natural gas (methane) and importing all the TV’s, cars, computers, clothes, plastic bottles of olive oil, yada yada….. We are exporting our countries wealth and our countries jobs. None of the exporting of our wealth and jobs in any way reduces global issues relating to emissions or pollution. It simply moves the emissions and the pollution overseas, along with the wealth and the jobs. The “solution” if there is one, is to substitute our own UK resources in place of the foreign ones. Bring back the jobs in the oil/gas industries (which the UK is actually very, very good at) and bring back the downstream manufacturing. This supports our economy, our tax base, our energy security and also at the same time, allows the market to transition to the more environmentally benign ways of supporting our standard of living. If that were to happen, then the wealth generated by the UK resources is reinvested in advancing all these technologies. Right now, in the UK we have no wind mill production, we have no power station builders, we have no solar panel manufacturers we have only about 10% of the petrochemical industry we had 30 to 50 years ago, we are importing 60% (and growing) of our natural gas. We also have no plastic tarpaulin makers, mobile phone makers, plastic rope makers and so it goes on and on…….. The folks protesting have their rights which I am sure will be protected. The O&G businesses have their rights too (and responsibilities) I’m not sure as of now those rights are being respected at all. Just a brief flavour of my thinking, so much more to write, so little time and room. I’m certain many here will pick holes in what I just said and will vehemently disagree. That’s fine. All I can appeal for really is to think carefully what you ask for and reflect on your own life, your own standard of living, your own use of poison plastics, hydro carbon fuels….. One last thing – Even your refrigerator uses hydrocarbons in its refrigeration cycle to keep it cool (namely iso-butane). We used to use non hydrocarbon gases, but they were polluting too (Montreal Protocol, CFC gas etc..). If you read this far, thank you very much for you time and interest. I hope I gave you something to consider when sheltering under the poison plastic tarp using the poison plastic mobile phone.
I very much appreciate the time that you have taken with this reply, and I appreciate even more the tone of your reply. Thank you. It seems that we agree on many things. The desirability of environmentally benign sources of energy would be one. The dangers of plastic pollution another. I also believe that we are far too reliant on US, Russian and Arabian imports both from a financial point of view and, dare I say it, from an ethical point of view (big subject, for another discussion). Finally, I also agree that by and large in any viable model for a society rights and responsibilities will both need to be acknowledged and acted upon. We disagree only with regard to details and timescales. Humankind seems to have almost hit a suicidal tipping point in terms of the modification of our planet’s climate to the point of non-inhabitability (if not for us, then most certainly for a number of low-lying poorer countries and a number of highly valued species of wildlife). My feeling is that the time for action on this is not when ‘the markets’ finally realise that we currently only know of one planet where we can live, but now. I am a huge believer in our innovative nature as a species, and have read only very recently about the development of a plastic-like material that is derived from algae that could replace bottle plastic. What I also believe however is that we are not investing enough energy or resources into identifying such alternatives. The belief systems currently underpinning our western systems of governance are highly flawed, embracing such painfully ridiculous concepts as infinite ‘growth’ on a finite planet, and ‘free’ markets. Somehow we have allowed soul-less wealth accumulators to control of our lives, and their simplistic thinking has gradually distorted our own thinking. We have even got to the point where we have allowed a major corporation in the form of Nestlé to run a monopolistic ‘market’ in water. I don’t believe that my government acts for me, Jonathan Plumridge, and others like me. I believe that, for the sake of survival, it cow-tows to people that I would displace myself to avoid and relies far too heavily on the interests of banks and corporations for that ‘survival’ in power that it so seems to cherish. Public service? I don’t think so. I’m a member of the public, and I’m not feeling it. Another thing that I agree with you about Fred is the danger implicit in not manufacturing our own goods, but I wouldn’t be looking to build a future economy around oil-based manufacture, I would be looking for us to become a world leader in alternatives to oil-based goods. To base our thinking on oil is to battle with others that are advantaged in that commodity, and would also be investing in a market that will inevitably diminish over time. I am painfully aware of the disastrous consequences experienced by Americans and Australians living in areas of onshore ‘stimulated’ oil and gas productions, and those countries have very low population densities compared to the UK, where many more people might be affected by the unforeseen consequences and relentless risk-taking of opportunistic onshore oil and gas companies. In terms of rights and responsibilities, rather than consider oil and gas companies and protestors as two separate groups I would prefer to consider them as two groups of essentially similar human beings that should enjoy identical human rights and societal responsibilities. The opinion that protestors are irresponsible is just that, an opinion espoused by those that favour onshore oil and gas production. Just because unconventional oil and gas extraction is supported by our current government doesn’t mean that it enjoys widespread popular support. All our opposition parties in fact oppose it, and it has been banned or suspended in other countries. Personally, I would challenge the ‘right’ of the government to encourage it. I would also challenge the ‘right’ of oil and gas companies to inflict irreparable environmental damage. Before women enjoyed voting rights they were not accorded them, and it took a fair amount of radical ‘protesting’ to gain them. Environmentalists insist on the right to a say in the way that the planet that we live on is managed. Surely the right to conserve the environment on which we all depend to live should be considered a fundamental human right. I am less clear however concerning the ‘right’ of onshore oil and gas companies to quite literally ‘undermine’ our rural communities, empowered by the policies of a ‘minority’ government and the interests of speculative investors. Why should someone looking to make a fast buck from a community have more say in the future of that community than someone that lives there? I can’t begin to understand that. Local councils say no, county councils say no, central government says yes, and the rights of local people are ridden over rough-shod. In brief conclusion Fred (sorry that this is so long) I should just like to point out that the stereotyping of protestors as hypocrites that criticise things that they rely on for their standard of living is over-simplistic and, I believe, unhelpful. Many of us try to avoid contaminating our environment via the choices that our society allows us to make, which are unfortunately fairly few, if we still wish to continue living within that society. We can purchase as ethically as possible. We can invest as ethically as possible. We can behave towards others as ethically as possible. Unfortunately, many of these choices cost us in financial terms, and many possible ethical choices are simply beyond the means of many people that believe as I do, such as an electric car for example. I personally do not sleep under plastic tarpaulins and would gladly use a phone constructed of non-plastic components.
Thank you for engaging in this discussion Fred.
Very best wishes,
Interesting post Fred, thanks
I do not appreciate the fact that these protestors consider that they are the only people that are aware of the danger of atmospheric gases. We all, or most us us, are. However most of us appreciate that, until alternative energy of sufficient quantity is in place, we have to rely on the energy that is available. From where do these protestors get the income to fund their protests? Are they extremely wealthy, if so how was it gained, or are they living off income from the state? If the latter, as I strongly suspect, perhaps the ‘workers’ of the country, who provide the state with the money to fund these protestors idle lifestyle, should themselves protest at the misuse of state funds.
Dear Shitzu (Is that really how you want to be addressed?),
A few points of fact. Firstly, a passive stance in the face of the vested interests of oil and gas companies is unlikely to change anything. Alternative energy of sufficient quantity will not become available unless we push for it, as it is far easier for energy companies to carry on doing what they know how to do than refocus on alternative sources of energy. Secondly, ‘these protestors’ are not a homogenous group drawn from the dole queues of Britain. We are a highly diverse group that support protest in a variety of ways with only the view that unconventional oil and gas extraction is dangerous in common apart from the multiple commonalities that we all enjoy as human beings. Many retired people are currently protesting for example. People that have worked hard for many years of their lives, have lived frugally, and have invested in pensions that now pay a very poor rate of return due to the profligacy of others. There are also many professional people protesting that give whatever time they can spare from their busy working lives. I also know of self-employed people that sacrifice earning opportunities in order to protest. And yes, there are time-rich unemployed people that protest. But I believe that it would be entirely unkind to suggest that these people were necessarily career ‘scroungers’ living off the state. Our current government has disenfranchised many people, and unemployment is very high in some areas. One of the reasons that people stated for voting to leave Europe was that there was a widespread perception that foreigners were stealing UK jobs and exploiting UK public services. A third thing that I’d invite you to reflect on is that the life of someone that has dedicated themself to protest is a far from comfortable one. Protest camps ARE extremely friendly places (why not drop in on one?) where people tend to share whatever they have, but they are far from luxurious. Sleeping night after night under canvas in the UK’s climate ain’t great. To endure life as a protestor one has to really believe in what one is doing. Fourthly, many long term protestors are assisted by others that believe in what they are doing, and they are frequently gifted food and other life essentials. They are also assisted from time to time by crowd funding.
Should you wish to direct bile at anyone that is living off the state and your hard-earned cash might I suggest the bailed-out banks that plunged this country into recession? Or perhaps the Tory government, that have deepened that recession via an insistence on austerity that even THEY have finally realised was misconceived.
Very best wishes,
Jonathan (my real name).
Good reply Fred. The silent majority support your statements.
I worked 40 years in the oil drilling and production industry. I witnessed acid stimulations and a limestone fracking job in 1986 at Humbly Grove, between Alton & Basingstoke.
I am sick of listening to the hypocritical Green protestors who ferry their family around in petrol guzzling 4×4’s and then complain when UK companies want to produce oil under natural flow from Weald development wells. Why don’t they complain to farmers that their cattle and horses are releasing too much methane into the atmosphere? These people do not know what they are talking about.
Dear Oily Boy.
How could you possibly know what ‘the silent majority’ supports? (Any idea what the silent majority supported during the referendum on EU membership?) Are we to assume from your post that all protestors are to be considered both hypocritical and Green? I know many that are Red. And where does the connection between protestors and petrol guzzling 4x4s come from? Similarly, where does the notion that oil will flow ‘naturally’ from the Weald come from? Even UKOG’s own Broadford Bridge feasibility study (carried out by Ernst & Young) doubted that natural flows would be commercially viable, stating that in all likelihood the oil in the Weald would require significant stimulation. And yet, YOU state that it is the protestors (and perhaps Ernst & Young?) that don’t know what they’re talking about .
I’m also sick Oily Boy. I’m sick of people endeavouring to defend the indefensible and making sweeping generalisations about people that they obviously don’t know and clearly haven’t taken the time to get to know.
Apart from which, I wish you well.