Green MEP Keith Taylor on oil visits: defend our heritage

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East, has been visiting oil drilling sites in Surrey and Sussex to offer his support to local campaigners fighting against unconventional oil extraction.

Keith visited the Leith Hill site, near Dorking, where a protection camp has been set up, and also visited a site in Billingshurst, West Sussex. There are also proposals for more drilling in Markswell Wood, in the South Downs National Park, and at Horse Hill in Surrey.

The new Leith Hill on-site ‘protection camp’ was erected on Friday, 28 October, the same day a public consultation on an application for extra security at the site closed.

During a speech to campaigners, Keith offered his support to the ‘dedicated defenders’ responsible for setting up the camp.

“I take my hat off to you. This is something that needs to be opposed. More strength to your elbow. You are not alone,” said the Green Party MEP.

“All over the place, there are people like yourselves who are called defenders of the earth. We must defend our heritage and protect our future,” he continued.

The vocal climate activist was also keen to set out his view on why fossil fuels must remain in the ground, adding:

“What we have in Leith Hill, is a proposal for a type of fossil fuel extraction that, according to experts, could have the same damaging impacts as fracking.”

“And the truth is that, just as we can’t expand Heathrow airport or any other UK airport, we can’t develop any new fossil fuel reserves or push ahead with fracking and hope to keep to the upper 2C limit for global average temperatures rises agreed in the Paris climate accord. Unless we take fast and decisive action to halt the use of Britain’s current fossil fuel stores, the more ambitious 1.5C limit is already beyond our reach.”

“The UK has enormous renewable energy potential – and we have seen evidence that people in Surrey and across the South East have the passion, willingness, and know-how to create clean, people-powered energy in spite of the Government’s onslaught.”

“The extraction of oil at Leith Hill not only risks damaging our local environment and health, it is a distraction from the work that must be done to build a sustainable future based on a clean, democratic energy system.”

Mr Taylor was joined on his visit by local residents and members of Mole Valley Green Party, A Voice for Leith Hill, Frack Free Surrey and Greenpeace.

Lucy Barford, of the community group, A Voice for Leith Hill, said Europa’s scheme threatened rare birds, such as redwing, cuckoo, and nightjar. She added:

“This will be horizontal drilling under the village of Coldharbour and the impacts will be huge. All credit to the Leith Hill Action Group which has been fighting this since 2009.”

“The plans pose a risk to what is the second biggest aquifer in Dorking. The historic sunken lane will also be threatened by the 1,200 planned HGV movements up and down the lane – which is irreparable if damaged.”

“Finally, and obviously, we already have more oil than we can ever use if we’re going to mitigate the very worst impacts of climate change.”

Jarod, a member of the protection camp, said:

“It is insulting that they should even think of doing something like this in an area like this.”

“We intend to work in whatever way is needed with people who have already been resisting this development. Hopefully, we can make sure Europa will not bring anything up this road. Not one lorry.”

Europa is currently negotiating with Surrey County Council over its traffic management plan for Bury Hill Wood.

Learn more about the Voice for Leith HIll campaign.

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