Breaking: campaigners have occupied a controversial oil drilling site in Surrey

Activists say they have set up a "protection camp" to stop drilling which is due to begin imminently.

Campaigners say they have occupied an oil drilling site at Horse Hill in Surrey known as the “Gatwick Gusher” – the site, which has seen protests in the past, was given the green to start drilling two months ago.

Activists entered the drilling site early this morning, setting up a “protection camp”, aiming to disrupt exploratory drilling, which is due to commence imminently.

One campaigner who’s there told us:

“We have taken possession of the entire area within the fencing and claimed it as our home… we will prevent any work on the site.”

“Police have arrive but our numbers are growing.”

Investors in the drilling scheme claim the site could tap into up to 100bn barrels of oil below the Surrey and Sussex countryside, leading to a latter day oil rush in the counties.

The Environment Agency gave the green light for two test drilling wells at the Horse Hill site near Gatwick Airport in September.

One of those occupying the site,  Tina Williamson, said: “The majority of known fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.” Adding:

“Starting a new oil rush in these circumstances is completely reckless, particularly when it uses unconventional techniques linked to air and water pollution.

“We call on the Government to ban new unconventional oil and gas exploration and invest urgently in renewables and energy efficiency”.

UK Oil and Gas (UKOG), a UK listed company, has claimed since 2015 that the site in Surrey could produce billions of barrels of oil tapping into the Weald Basin.

The company say the drilling would be of “national significance”, claiming up to 100bn barrels of oil exist under the Sussex Weald, equivalent to the reserves of Iran.

Chief Executive of UKOG Stephen Sanderson said in 2015:

“We think we’ve found a very significant discovery here, probably the largest onshore in the UK in the last 30 years, and we think it has national significance.”

But experts have slammed this claim as “misleading” and “wildly optimistic”.

The site is among several in the South East of England, looking for ‘tight oil’ in low permeability rocks, using techniques such as acidisation and – campaigners fear – fracking.

More follows…

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