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Save Our Shores Bournemouth: The Fight For Dorset's Coastline

Local to Lush’s Dorset roots, the waters of Poole Bay are a protected environment, but the area is under threat from oil companies looking to drill. Local campaigning group Save Our Shores Bournemouth sat down with Lush to discuss how they’re fighting back.

The fight for the future of our planet has never been so serious, but communities across the world are taking a stand. One such group is meeting in a local café; Save Our Shores (SOS) Bournemouth core members Sara, David, Stephen, Hannah and Chris are sitting down to reflect on their campaigning efforts thus far.

Hailing from all ages and backgrounds, the group has come together with a common interest - to take a stand against continued fossil fuel extraction across the Dorset coastline. Co-founder Chris Rigby describes the group as a collective of various activists and community groups who care about this issue and want to make a difference.

The group has campaigned continuously against the expansion of oil drilling in the Bournemouth area since the first permit applications for drilling in Poole Bay were announced by Corallian Energy in 2017. By collecting signatures, writing to local MPs and holding multiple protests, the group has gained nationwide attention for the cause and even elicited the shadow minister for energy and climate change, Alan Whitehead, to question these actions in Parliament.

On February 6th 2019, Corallian Energy began drilling for oil in the ‘Colter Field’ - an oil-rich area of land less than five miles away from the Bournemouth coastline. The rig did not leave the site until late March after an extension allowed it to remain in Poole Bay for an extra three weeks.

SOS argues the potential impact of the drill on the local environment was not thoroughly considered due to the swift nature of the approval of the extension. Although many consultees raised concerns about the impact on surrounding ecosystems, including breeding periods for local marine birdlife throughout the spring, the permits were still granted.

“The application was posted on a Friday, and passed on a Monday,” explains Sara Pascoe, core SOS group member. “We feel like this was suspiciously fast, and fear the proper checks had not been done”.

Concern for the environment and the planet is a driving force behind SOS Bournemouth’s fight against oil drilling. The group is asking how an oil rig has been granted permission to drill along the Jurassic Coast, the UK’s only UNESCO World Heritage site, when only four years ago the Navitus Bay wind farm project was rejected. Although the farm was to be installed 13 miles offshore - a distance almost twice as far as the oil rig - it was rejected due to the impact that spoiling the view would have on business and tourism along the Dorset Coast.

Save Our Shores group photograph

“The irony is not lost on us,” says Chris. “The whole of Poole Bay is supposedly protected, so it doesn’t make any sense for an oil rig to be there. On top of that, we don’t actually need to use fossil fuels anymore - we’re heading towards climate chaos!”

The potential harm to local wildlife is so significant that it remains unclear how a permit was granted so quickly, and the group is still seeking answers to that question.

Sadly, relief to see the back of the drill was short-lived, with the group now planning next steps in its continued stand against oil extraction along the Dorset Coast.

The exploratory drilling confirmed that the Colter Field could potentially yield over 15 million barrels of oil. The potential to install horizontal drilling pipelines from nearby Wytch Farm oil field, (the largest onshore oil field in Western Europe), is particularly worrying says SOS.

Chris explains: “There are more opportunities for another rig to come here so it may not be the last time one appears. Because they’ve found it so easy to come here and not be challenged, we anticipate they might want to explore additional areas as well.”

The SOS group refuses to stand back and let this happen. Instead, it will be concentrating its efforts on Perenco’s Wytch Farm and existing fields, and finding out what the oil company intends to do.

“We’re trying to keep the pressure on them to make sure they are doing things as they should,” Chris says.

The future of our southern coastlines remains uncertain. But one thing is for sure - SOS Bournemouth is ready to stand up and fight for a greener planet.

SOS holds regular meetings to share their work, and new members are welcomed with open arms. The group says that anyone who wants to come along should check out the details on the SOS Facebook page.

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