A petition by the parents of one of the activists gained 50,000 signatures online in its first week, and a call has gone out to shut down the annual EDF Talk Power Conference on 1 May.
Two chimneys at the West Burton gas-fired power station were occupied last October by 16 ‘No Dash for Gas’ campaigners to protest at the government’s plan to build up to 40 new gas-fired power stations (see PN 2552-2553).
On 20 February, 21 ‘No Dash for Gas’ activists pleaded guilty at Mansfield magistrates court to the charge of aggravated trespass during the action. A statement on their website said: ‘All 21 chose to plead guilty, because they felt their time will be better spent campaigning against the government’s insane dash for gas, rather than being tied up in a protracted court case.’ Sentencing was postponed.
After the hearing the 21 were served with papers on behalf of the owners of the station, Electricité de France (EDF), claiming £5m damages for money allegedly lost during the week-long shut-down of the plant caused by the occupation. (Greenpeace noted that the plant was already two years behind schedule.)
Protest groups expressed concern that if EDF is allowed to continue pursuing the legal action, the resulting costs will put off future protestors from taking on large corporations.
A second concern is the collusion of police with the company. A solicitor for some protesters and protestors themselves say they were served the papers by police, rather than by a company agent.
In parliament, MP Caroline Lucas asked the home secretary what her policy was on the provision of information by the police to private companies that are planning or taking civil legal action against protesters.