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West Sussex Labour party passes emergency resolution condemning legal action by oil company

Simon Birnstingl
Simon Birnstingl

Arundel and South Downs Constituency Labour Party passed an emergency resolution at their AGM on Saturday 10th March, to condemn local oil company UKOG for “attempting to restrict the right to lawful and peaceful protest against unconventional oil and gas exploration” by applying for a High Court Injunction against protest at Broadford Bridge near West Chiltington, West Sussex.

The emergency resolution was proposed after the meeting heard that the proposed High Court hearing scheduled for next Monday (March 19th) could make it illegal to gather near the site or to conduct any lawful activity if it is deemed to affect the economics of the company.

As well as denouncing the court action, the meeting agreed to oppose unconventional oil exploration in line with Labour’s national policies and it resolved to support local campaigns within the constituency.

Speaking after the meeting the Vice Chair, Simon Birnstingl said:

“This latest move by UKOG is an attack on democracy and we all need to stand up for protecting the democratic rights of local communities. We are supporting campaigners fighting to stop unconventional oil exploration happening here which is threatening to industrialize our countryside and make it impossible  to meet climate change commitments”

The Labour meeting resolved to seek ways to support action around renewable energy production for a cleaner future.

Labour included support for anti-fracking movements in its local manifesto for the Arundel and South Downs constituency but the Conservative MP Nick Herbert has backed the government’s stance on supporting oil and gas exploration of this type.

UKOG operates three sites in West Sussex and has significant shares in Leith Hill in Surrey. It was granted a planning extension by WSCC for Broadford Bridge last September to conduct flow tests using acidisation. It promised to finish within 14 weeks by December 22 but, after having difficulties in the drilling process, it was allowed to continue first to the end of February and now the end of March.

The company’s share prices fell by £50m in one day after it issued a statement to shareholders warning they had not been able to get the oil out of the ground at the speed or flow originally forecast.