Dorset

Protesters camp at planned Jurassic Coast drilling site

Warning notice at the camp in Swanage Image copyright Swanage Protection Camp
Image caption Protesters said "a presence" would be maintained at the site 24 hours a day

Campaigners have set up camp on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset in a bid to stop drilling for oil and gas.

The Swanage Protection Camp at California Quarry in the town comes ahead of work by InfraStrata.

The firm was given a temporary grant for drilling by Dorset County Council in 2013.

Protesters said they were concerned about the environmental effects, including damage to nearby protected newts and bats.

Image copyright Swanage Protection Camp
Image caption InfraStrata said the project at California Quarry, Swanage, would not involve fracking

InfraStrata said the project would use conventional drilling methods, not hydraulic fracturing - otherwise known as fracking.

The exploratory well is expected to reach a depth of about 2,000m (6,600ft) below sea level.

However, the firm said it had sold its interest in the project but remained the licence administrator until an interested party is assigned by the Oil and Gas Authority.

It said some limited ground works could take place this winter but not drilling - which could be delayed until next winter.

'Catastrophe'

Campaigner and Green Party activist Stuart Lane said the protestors had "a number of key concerns", which also included the health and safety of local residents.

"If there's an accident during the work - and leaks - it could cause a catastrophe in the town," he said.

The quarry is also close to Durlston Country Park, which is a site of special scientific interest, and lies within an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Image copyright Swanage Protection Camp
Image caption Swanage Protection Camp claims to have found a newt at the proposed drilling site

"The camp is an absolute last resort measure - it's an uncomfortable situation for campaigners to be in - which could have been avoided at many points over the last few years," he added.

He said consultation with the public over the plans had been "minimal".

The group said it would maintain "a presence" at the site 24 hours a day.

InfraStrata said environmental matters were addressed before planning permission, which expires on 4 December, was granted.

However, Dorset County Council said a second survey to check for protected species was being carried out.

Image copyright John Stephen
Image caption Concerns raised include the quarry being close to Durlston Country Park

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