The High Court has extended an injunction against protests at Europa’s exploratory oil site near Leith Hill in Surrey for less than a day.
Last week, the company had asked the court to extend the injunction for a year until September 2019.
But in a surprise announcement this morning Europa said it would be leaving the site on Forestry Commission land at Bury Hill Woods (DrillOrDrop breaking news), after the government refused to extend the lease.
Europa’s barrister, Mark Glover, asked a court hearing in London this lunchtime for a shorter extension of the injunction to allow the company to withdraw from the site.
But a court official, Chief Master Marsh, said Europa had presented no evidence to justify any extension. He said:
“Protesters who object to the operations of your client will be only too happy to see the withdrawal. They may want to stand by and cheer. Why would they want to disturb the withdrawal?”
The injunction was first granted by Chief Master Marsh on 23 January 2017, along with a possession order. This followed the occupation of the site on about 29 October 2016 by opponents of oil operations. The camp was evicted on 22-23 June 2017 and campaigners established another protection camp on the opposite site of the road, on land not covered by the Europa lease.
The current injunction expires at midnight on 12 September 2018, the same day as the expiry of the lease.
Mr Glover said:
“The reason for direct action is to increase the financial burden on the industry. This is an opportunity to increase the costs burden, to frustrate the withdrawal. Protesters will want to obtain publicity by, for example, reoccupying the site.”
In an 18-minute hearing, Chief Master Marsh extended the injunction for 14 hours until another court hearing at 2pm on 13 September.
He asked Europa for evidence of what the withdrawal from the site would involve, including the number of lorry movements and the timescale. He said:
“This is a highly intrusive injunction.
“We have tried to strike a balance between the right to protest and the right to protection from interference. The balance might have tipped.”
Alice Waddicor, who lives at the current protection camp, sought to challenge the extension of the injunction. She told the hearing there was only a portacabin, fencing and a small amount of equipment on the site.
No work has been carried out at Bury Hill Wood, apart from drilling three water monitoring boreholes, since planning permission was first granted more than three years ago.
The injunction hearing was adjourned until 2pm on Thursday 13 September 2018 at the High Court in London.
Reporting at this hearing was made possible by donations from individual DrillOrDrop readers