EKAF press release December 2016
EAST KENT AGAINST FRACKING ‘Powers Up’ opposition to drilling in Surrey (in support of the Leith Hill Protectors’ Camp)
The government dash for gas and oil means that the Weald countryside is under serious threat of industrialisation, particularly in Surrey. Over the past three years, East Kent Against Fracking (EKAF) has been helping to start up other groups in Kentish villages to oppose drilling in the Dover/Deal/Sandwich area. The result of this joint campaign is that ALL drilling licences in Kent have been relinquished and, ironically, the last site earmarked for drilling is now a solar farm. One of these groups, Bore Free South (BFS – previously known as Bore Free Eastry) is now actively fundraising to support opposition to drilling – including aiding protectors’ camps in Surrey.
EKAF has very generously donated £500 to help BFS with the purchase of complete solar panel kits (from Bimble Solar near Lewes) to enable protection camps to have lighting and a power supply – especially critical over the dark winter months.
Spokesman for Bore Free South, John Buckingham, said: “As our county is currently safe from the threat of drilling, it is only right that we should help other counties affected. We are very grateful to East Kent Against Fracking and the first panel will go to the Leith Hill Camp near Dorking, protecting an area of outstanding beauty heavily frequented by hikers and cyclists.”
As far back as March 2009, organisations including the National Trust, Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Surrey Hills AONB Board have all formally objected to the initial planning application for drilling in Leith Hill. After two planning inquiries and two court cases and Surrey County Council rejection of the application for a deviated well at Bury Hill Wood, the decision was overturned by the Secretary of State. Local celebrities such as Brian Blessed and Virginia McKenna (Born Free) have also lent their support. Therefore, residents have now mobilised to defend their treasured landscape. There are currently 4 active local groups:
Frack Free Surrey (Horse Hill), Surrey against Fracking, Leith Hill Action Group (LHAG) and A Voice for Leith Hill. The camp is also supported by Bore Free South, Friends of the Earth and the local community.
There is a rota of locals to help with cooking food, washing clothes and providing hot showers for the residents of the camp. A welcome gazebo is in place by the roadside as well as a well-being caravan (donated) to provide first aid and herbal healing – manned by a local practitioner. Local councillors had been approached to organise portaloos but until this arrives, the camp has put a composting toilet in place. The atmosphere in the camp is upbeat (despite the current cold weather) and hearts were further warmed on Saturday 3rd Dec when over 350 people came for a Celebration Walk to Leith Hill Tower to support the protection of the area.
People asked questions such as: “Is this drilling worth sacrificing our health, our water supply and our landscape?” “Who will want to hike or cycle in this area when it is covered in drill pads?” “Who will help when my house value decreases, my insurance premiums rise and the health of my family and the local environment is endangered?” Many local people are asking why such a beautiful place should be desecrated when there are other safer technologies available to supply power?
Despite the statement that such drill pads will only be conventional ie vertical (at first), extreme methods like fracking are likely to be used at some stage (ie stimulated horizontal wells) with the all the dangers that have been encountered in other countries as well as revealed in the Government DEFRA report on the specific risks from fracking to the rural economy. All main democratic processes of opposition seem to be flouted by the government – notably, with the council’s decision being overturned by the Secretary of State – therefore, organising peaceful protest and protection camps appears to be the last option available for ordinary citizens to exercise a democratic right to protest against the current policy of fossil fuel extraction and to protect our landscape for our children’s future.
There are over 500 residents’ groups in the UK, Frack Free Sussex alone has over 10,000 followers, and people are uniting to fight drilling all over the UK. John O’Houston, a supporter of Leith Hill protection camp said “I would like to thank EKAF for the kind donation. The camp, established since 29th October, has endured sub-zero temperatures due to Forestry Commission rules prohibiting fires in the woods, which is ironic since Europa Oil would need to be flaring off excess gas if they were to drill there. EKAF’s show of solidarity demonstrates the unity in this country that exists to prevent more fossil fuel extraction and to help keep to the promise of reducing carbon emissions which the UK signed up to in the Paris agreement earlier this year.”
If you would like to help support this campaign, go to the donation page http://www.borefreesouth.org.uk/donate/ ENDS
Although established to fight unconventional oil & gas exploitation in East Kent, EKAF is also committed to promoting green alternatives. further to this Eastry have started , members from Bore Free Eastry have started investigating a local community energy scheme called Eastry Energy. Please visit their website here.
Excellent news from Sandwich is that a solar farm is being constructed at the site where Coastal Oil & Gas previously had a permit (relinquished last year) to test drill for Coal Bed methane. EKAF committee member Di Jones had the following excellent article published in the East Kent Mercury:
This is an exciting development which may lead to more such developments on low grade farmland and old brownfield sites.