‘Massive victory’ on West Sussex and Surrey drilling sites injunction

Campaigners are celebrating a ‘massive victory’ in their fight against a ‘draconian’ injunction relating to drilling sites in Surrey and West Sussex.

Horse Hill demonstration back in 2019
Horse Hill demonstration back in 2019

UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) had obtained an interim injunction for two of its sites at Horse Hill near Gatwick and Broadford Bridge near Billingshurst.

It originally aimed to ban various forms of protest on the public highway including slow walking protests by ‘persons unknown’.

However the revised junction has been ‘radically scaled back’ according to campaigners from the Weald Action Group and now only covers trespass on to the Horse Hill site and obstruction of its main entrance.

Lorraine Inglis, campaigner with the Weald Action Group, said: “This is a massive victory. We’ve been fighting for three years to cut down this draconian injunction – at every court hearing we’ve made progress.

“Now all that’s left is a set of narrow restrictions relating to trespass and access to Horse Hill in line with a standard injunction. It’s an excellent result. UKOG are trying to save face by pretending this has something to do with the COVID pandemic. It hasn’t – it’s all to do with their unacceptable injunction.”

In a statement UKOG said Horse Hill remained a target for protestors seeking to prevent the company from ‘conducting its lawful business’, with the injunction helping to ‘protect the company from such unlawful actions and, crucially does not prevent or limit peaceful protest’.

Due to the pandemic it had invited the High Court to modify the injunction’s scope and cited Surrey Police’s success in dealing with slow-walking protests.

Stephen Sanderson, UKOG chief executive, added: “UKOG has never sought to obstruct any peaceful protest, or curb the right to freedom of expression, solely to restrain unlawful activities that impede its staff’s right to go about their lawful business.

“This ruling now makes it clear that acts of trespass, obstruction of the site’s entrance and vehicle surfing do not constitute lawful protest under the right to freedom of expression. We trust that protesters will abide by this ruling.”

The revised injunction remains in force until a final two-day trial, to be scheduled between June and October 2021.