When we dashed into the station, scaled the ladders and camped on top of two of the chimneys, we knew we were likely to face legal consequences for our actions.
We huddled in the bushes outside West Burton gas-fired power station in the early hours of a cold October morning. Laden with climbing gear and supplies, we were steeling ourselves for the final, stealthy approach to the perimeter. Suddenly, a pair of headlights loomed ahead of us. A security patrol had spotted us! We had no choice but to run – but which way? Should we abort the action? Or head for the power station? One quick huddle in the undergrowth and the choice was made. We were going for it. Luck was on our side – the guards thought we were heading for the coal-fired power station next door, so when we broke from cover we had a clear run.
When we dashed into the station, scaled the ladders and camped on top of two of the chimneys, we knew we were likely to face legal consequences for our actions. If found guilty of “Aggravated Trespass” (the anti-protestlaw most commonly used in cases like this) we could be hit by fines, community service or even a short prison term. However, we all felt the issues at stake were so serious that we were willing to accept that risk.
Following intense lobbying from big energy companies, the government is planning to build up to forty new gas power stations. According to their own committee on climate change, this would blow our climate change targets out of the water, and the rising price of gas would add around £600 to the average household’s bills by 2020.
A new ‘Dash for Gas’ would push millions of people into fuel poverty,and bring us one step closer to disastrous runaway climate change.
We camped on circular metal balconies around the outside of the chimneys, eighty metres high. When the police arrived they didn’t try to get us down, as we had hoped – it was too difficult to even attempt it. We phoned the power station manager to ensure the plant was switched off, and then the expert climbers on our team dangled inside one of the chimneys on a portable ledge to make sure they wouldn’t turn it back on again.
On a diet of oatcakes, cereal bars, dried fruit and strange self-heating meals used by mountaineers, we occupied the chimneys for a full seven days – the longest environmental occupation of a power station in UK history. One of our team built a charging station out of scrap solar panels to keep our phones powered and we managed to fix a rope between the two chimneys so people and supplies could travel back and forth in spectacular style. It wasn’t until we’d come down and spent a night in the police cells that we learned the stakes were even higher than we thought.