Protesters 'spot lorry defects at drilling site'

| 25th June 2019
West Newton campaigners
West Newton campaigners
Campaigners spot 'potentially dangerous' defects with vehicle leaving West Newton Drill Site - vehicle later impounded by police.


Campaigners have have maintained a nearly constant presence since early January at the West Newton Rathlin Energy drilling site in East Riding.

This week has seen another large increase in movements and traffic leaving the site with a number of oversized loads, causing disturbance and disruption in local villages such as New Ellerby. 

The increase in activity follows the announcement by Rathlin Energy that they are removing the current equipment used for drilling the exploratory well. This indicates that Rathlin Energy are preparing the site for the next stage - flow testing the well. This has been recognised as one of the most dangerous stages of exploration. 

Public footpaths

Last weekend a group of walkers, and campaigners from surrounding areas joined forces to challenge the recent closure of local and regularly used footpaths and the lane leading to the West Newton site.

The group said: “We wanted to show Rathlin Energy and ERYC that residents in Withernwick and Ellerby - or anywhere else for that matter - ought to be able to continue to walk the public footpaths that have been closed for no good reason.

"We walked peacefully on these years-old paths without the need of interruption from the police or anyone else. The paths were closed for alleged road works, but even the police don’t know where the roadworks are.

"We want to empower other villagers to walk on the paths too. It is our right to do so. It is Rathlin that is industrialising our local area - why should we residents allow them to walk all over us? The path was closed without any of the statutory notice to those affected, like us.”

Possible contaminants 

The group were approached whilst walking on a public footpath and right of way by a small number of police officers who questioned their motives and intent, and stated that the presence of thirteen people consisting of teachers, managers, mothers, fathers, grandparents and a number of dogs had made the Rathlin private security nervous.

The group were then told that the area was subject to a Section 14, which contradicts previous interactions and notices associated with the recent emergency road closures leading to the site.

The group were asked for details, which they politely declined to give. They were allowed to continue their walk, with the remaining police seemingly as puzzled by the closures and necessity of their presence.   

While large amounts of infrastructure used during the drilling process continued to leave the site throughout Saturday and into Sunday, campaigners joined the local community of New Ellerby.

They did this to take the protest to the village and highlight the dangers of increased movements of heavy good vehicles, but also the possible contaminants that will also be leaving during this phase, and how this could become the norm for traffic movements in the future if Rathlin Energy succeed in their plans to develop a network of infrastructure across East Riding.

Planned industrialisation

The campaign group highlighted the dangers and the continued planned industrialisation of this area.

Around mid-morning on Sunday the campaign group engaged a vehicle travelling through the village carrying a very large and heavy load.

The campaigners safely engaged and slowed the vehicle, but according to them the driver allegedly used his vehicle to attempt to intimidate protestors. The vehicle drove towards campaigners, say witnesses, and lightly made contact with an individual.

Due to this the campaign group and monitors directed the vehicle into a safe lay-by and requested the police deal with the incident.

During the process of slow-walking the vehicle to the layby a number of potential defects were noticed by the group, and once the vehicle was safely stopped a further inspection revealed a number of serious and potentially dangerous defects that were recorded and reported to the police, according to the campaigners.

At the request of the campaign group the Humberisde police force brought a specialist traffic officer to the scene, who then confirmed he was not happy with this vehicle completing its journey.

The vehicle was then taken away under police escort to a secure compound where it will remain until VOSA have completed a full inspection and it is deemed safe to travel. 

Community monitoring 

Community monitoring



Campaigners and local residents involved in the incident highlighted that these alleged dangerous defects might never have been spotted without their continued protests and slow-walking. 

There is an urgent need for monitoring by the community, as neither company, police or council are taking appropriate precautions. 

This week, a number of pieces of infrastructure and the main body of the rig will be leaving the site. There was at least one arrest on Monday morning, and around 40 police officers on the scene observing a handful of protestors. 

The campaigners have set up a website here

This Author 

Marianne Brooker is The Ecologist's content editor. This article is based on a press release from West Newton Gateway to the Gas Fields.