Reports from the Horse Hill oil site in Surrey this morning say protesters breached security and got into the compound at dawn, preventing the start of work.
The campaign group, Extinction Rebellion, said two environmental campaigners have locked-on to the entrance and blocked access to the site.
Extinction Rebellion said campaigners had also climbed on top of cabins and dropped a climate emergency banner.
A High Court injunction is in force at Horse Hill prohibiting trespass on the site.
Surrey Police said four people had been arrested.
A spokesperson for the force said:
“Officers attended following reports that protesters were preventing a number of vehicles from making deliveries to the site.
“The arrests were made for offences contrary to Section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act whereby the protesters have potentially prevented people from going about their lawful business and aggravated trespass under Section 68 Criminal Justice Act and Public Order Act 1994.
“The protesters arrived at the site around 4am this morning and officers attended to engage, explain and encourage the group to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
“The rights to protest are well established in this country; however, personal responsibility is now key and we are reminding people who are able to leave their homes as a result of the changes, to think carefully about where they are going and how they will be able to keep their distance from others. We would also ask that people keep in mind the purpose of the regulations and the national effort to protect the NHS and save lives.
“Officers will continue to monitor the Horse Hill site and work with the local community, the company running the site and anyone expressing a wish to protest to balance the rights, needs and wishes of all parties involved.”
Surrey Police later confirmed that Venetia Carter, 56, of Brighton, and Margaret Mulowska, 32, of Shepperton, had been charged with intimidation or annoyance by violence to preveent lawful activity. Christopher Smith, 43, of New Malden, and Simon Sinclair, 30 of Brighton, were charged with aggravated trespass. All four were due to appear Guildford Magistrates Court on 7 July.
Extinction Rebellion said the campaigners were calling on the UK government to stop supporting oil and gas extraction in the UK and to invest in a green recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. During the crisis, Extinction Rebellion said pollution and greenhouse gas emissions had fallen.
Chris, one of the activists inside the site, said:
“We are now at a crossroads in the human story.
“We can either return to the same path and ‘business as usual’, knowingly condemning humanity and the entire planet to suffering and ultimately extinction. Or we can take a new path and have a chance of heading off the worst.
“I am here on behalf of my nieces and nephews and all future generations to say it has to be worth trying. Let’s change our paths together – this is the last chance we have.”
The site operator, Horse Hill Developments Limited (HHDL), received planning permission in September 2019 to produce oil for 20 years.
Extinction Rebellion said this level of oil production could add an estimated 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The group said:
“This is totally incompatible with ensuring a safe future for generations to come and is not the only negative effect of the site.”
The group said the planet had been “given breathing space” during the Covid-19 crisis, with falls in journeys by car and planes:
“This could be a golden opportunity for the Government to stop funnelling money into environmentally destructive industries and to channel funds into renewable sources of energy and a green economy, benefiting both people and the planet. Oil is over – we need to build back better.”
DrillOrDrop has asked HHDL’s owners, UK Oil & Gas plc, to comment. The company released the following statement:
“The unlawful actions by this small group of protesters is doubly abhorrent at this time of national crisis. Firstly, they have shown total disregard for the safety and health of others by violating current Covid-19 regulations about social distancing, even urinating on our staff [a point disputed by the protesters].
“Their behaviour has been appalling. The police must now risk their own safety in order to remove them. Secondly, they have thumbed their noses at the High Court by violating our injunction order via their aggravated trespass onto our site and from preventing us from conducting our lawful business.
“And did they ever stop to think that the medical equipment and PPE the country sorely needs at present is derived from oil and gas? Face masks and visors, gloves, protective aprons, syringes, sterile tubes and pipes in intubators and ventilators, catheters, sample bottles, tablet dispensers, vital function computers and screens, the list is endless. Even patient notes are kept in a plastic file and ID wristbands are made from plastic. All are made from petroleum products. You cannot get away from it.
“Petroleum derived products come in all shapes and sizes but any medical facility, from your local GP surgery to the inside of an ambulance to intensive care units in hospitals, depend on plastics, because they are sterile, easily manufactured and durable. Would you want to live in a world without these basic but essential items?”
In response to the UKOG statement, Extinction Rebellion told DrillOrDrop:
“It is laughable that UKOG are claiming their staff were urinated on today at Horse Hill.
“Extinction Rebellion activists follow the principle of non-violence, which obviously excludes the behaviour UKOG is alleging.
“The activists on the containers inside the Horse Hill site have confirmed UKOG’s staff have remained at some distance from them throughout the action.
“Our activists have spoken to police, now inside the compound, who have confirmed they have received no complaints about UKOG staff being urinated on.
“This ridiculous claim smacks of a desperate attempt to discredit the activists to divert attention away from the fact that their security has been so easily breached.”