Campaigners against drilling for gas on fields near a Chester high school have set up a ‘protection camp’ on the site.

Twenty activists entered the field off Duttons Lane in Upton , near Upton High School , at 3am on Saturday and cordoned off a section of the proposed drilling site, blocking access.

Dart Energy has a licence to explore for coal bed methane, which protesters have dubbed the ‘evil twin of shale gas’ and have permission to build an access road at the spot on which the campaigners are camping.

 

Opponent Anna Smith, said: “We are here to highlight that there are alternatives to extreme energy extraction and the destruction of our environment. This is the first time in the UK that campaigners have managed to get to a site before an exploration company but it will not be the last.

“We aim to open up this land for community use. We are working with the local groups to create an open and accessible space that is free for everybody to use. In the next few days we will be putting up a list of events and workshops that will be held over the school holidays.”

Resident Christine Damiao, one of the first visitors to the site, said: ‘I was so glad to hear that people have come to help in our campaign, I came straight down to thank them for their support. Dart Energy have attempted to sneak in to Chester without any real public consultation – if they had, they would know that we do not want this climate destroying industry, not here or anywhere in the UK.

“I know that myself and other people in our community will be working very closely with the campers to show that we want clean renewable technology and positive use of green spaces, not the industrialisation of our countryside. If the government think that people will just sit back and accept this destructive industry they are going to be quickly disabused.”’

A community open day was held at Upton Community Protection Camp on Sunday as an opportunity for people to find out what is happening. Some locals are supporting campaigners by taking along supplies of food and water.

Dart Energy spokesman Peter Reilly said: “We are bemused because we have not even scheduled a rig yet so there is no date for taking possession and setting a date or anything.”

In response to environmental concerns, he added: “With respect to the concerns, both real and imaginary, the company assesses the risk of any operation and mitigates against them.”

The establishment of the protest camp comes after an earlier camp was set up next to Dart’s other coal bed methane test drill at Marsh House Lane, Farndon.

Sergeant Alex Jackson of Cheshire Police said: “The role of the police is to facilitate lawful and peaceful protest and the ability of workers from the energy firm to go about their lawful business also.”

He said there had been no arrests at either protest camp and campaigners had been peaceful and good natured at all times.