The company behind oil drilling plans near Leith Hill in Surrey has sought an extension to its injunction against protesters.
Europa Oil and Gas applied to the High Court on 22 December 2017, the final working day before Christmas, to extend the injunction for another 12 months.
The order, which prevents “persons unknown” from entering the company’s site at Bury Hill Wood near Dorking, had been due to expire on 22 January 2018.
The company sought to prolong the order until 21 January 2019.
A document from the High Court said people could apply to challenge the revised order. A hearing has been scheduled for 11am on 8 January at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
Europa posted details of the extension on Facebook pages yesterday, with links to court documents.
There was an attempt to serve the latest order on protesters near the site today.
The order applies to “persons unknown” who enter and remain on the site or access to it in connection with protests against petroleum exploration and extraction.
The new documents included an additional witness statement by Paul Dench, of the law firm, Charles Russell Speechlys.
He said Europa was “nearing completion” of conditions to the planning permission granted in 2015.
“It is anticipated that there will be a significant amount of activity on the Site, Accessway and Coldharbour Lane in the very near future.”
Mr Dench said this would include vehicles on Coldharbour Lane, the road to the site, the site itself and the access road. He said there would also be a permanent presence at the site of the company’s representatives, employees, advisors, agents and contractors.
“Europa are very concerned, and consider it to be almost inevitable, that without the continued protection of the Injunction the Protesters will seek to re-take possession of the Site and Accessway and/or obstruct Europa from accessing the Site and/or Accessway and/or prevent the Vehicles from reaching the Site along Coldharbour Lane by using tactics such as “slow walking”, “lock ons”, lorry surfing (as defined below) or by standing in front of the Vehicles travelling to and from the Site.”
Opponents of Europa’s activities established a protest camp at the site at the end of October 2016.
Europa was granted a possession order on 23 January 2017 but did not evict the camp until 21 June 2017.
After the eviction, opponents established a new camp on the opposite of the road from the site.
Mr Dench acknowledged that there had not been “any real attempts” to occupy again the site and access way.
He said “to a large extent” the injunction has “held firm”.
But he said:
“The Protesters occupying the New Camp are not merely “peaceful protesters” but are professional protesters with a history of direct action who have repeatedly and consistently demonstrated the capability of causing damage to property and causing people to fear for their safety and wellbeing, as a means of achieving their aim of preventing Europa from lawfully accessing and using the Site.”
Mr Dench mentioned an attempt by protesters earlier this month to prevent a heavy goods vehicle delivering equipment to the site. The protesters had argued that the delivery breached planning consent because Surrey County Council had not approved the traffic management plan (tmp).
A spokesperson for opponents of Europa’s activities described the injunction as:
“Bully tactics from a losing oil company and its heavy aggressive security company”..
In November, Europa announced it was appealing against the non-determination of the TMP. Decisions have been deferred twice by the council’s planning committee, which had asked for more information.
The Leith Hill Action Group has also submitted a legal challenge to the council’s approval of an application for fencing and equipment at the Bury Hill Wood site. The group is now waiting to hear whether a judge will grant permission for a judicial review.
DrillOrDrop contacted Europa and its PR company, St Brides, to comment on the extension to the injunction. No one was available at either company.