Energy company EDF drop £5m damages claim against West Burton power station protesters
Energy giant EDF has dropped a £5 million damages claim against environmental protesters who occupied West Burton gas-fired power plant.
Protesters claimed a "huge victory" over the energy company after it abandoned the legal action, which had prompted a public outcry in recent weeks.
More than 64,000 people signed a petition urging EDF to drop the claim and customers took to social media to say they were switching from the company.
EDF launched the action after protesters tried to halt the construction of one of the UK's new gas-fired power stations, its West Burton plant in Nottinghamshire, last October, in a week-long protest that saw them scale two 300ft (90m) chimneys.
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The No Dash For Gas group were protesting against the Government's move to encourage the building of new gas plants to meet electricity needs, warning it would leave the UK dependent on a polluting and increasingly expensive fossil fuel for decades.
Last month, 21 people pleaded guilty to aggravated trespass, and are awaiting sentence.
EDF sought £5 million damages against the campaigners for money spent and lost during the occupation, which the protesters said could have seen some of them lose their homes or be declared bankrupt.
The legal action has now been dropped, but EDF said the protesters had agreed in principle to accept a permanent injunction which prevented them from entering multiple sites operated by the company.
One of the protesters, 35-year-old Hannah Davey, from London, said: "This is a huge victory, but sadly it's not enough by itself.
"Our homes and financial futures are now safe from EDF's lawyers but millions of people won't be safe from fuel poverty and the effects of climate change if the Government and the energy companies' reckless gas expansion plans are allowed to go ahead.
"We need to stop the dash for gas before it crashes our carbon targets and makes the UK dependant on an expensive, imported and highly-polluting fuel for decades to come."
In a statement, EDF said: "Our aim was always to protect a vital infrastructure project - which forms part of a massive investment in the UK's energy supply - from dangerous and costly disruption."
The company said it respected the right to protest lawfully but the group who broke into the West Burton site put their lives at risk and forced hundreds of workers off site.
EDF also said it would be asking a range of people, including environmental campaigners, to help discuss how the company can develop protocols to guide its response to future demonstrations.
The energy giant insisted it shared the protesters' commitment to tackling climate change, with targets to reduce CO2 emissions from electricity production and customers' energy use, as well as building new nuclear plants which are low-carbon and supporting renewables.
But it said a mixture of energy sources were needed to keep the lights on in Britain in the coming years.