M25 eco-mob issues ultimatum to government over disruption

20 September 2021, 08:48 | Updated: 20 September 2021, 16:51

By Will Taylor

Eco-campaigners have threatened more protests causing gridlock on the M25 unless the Government releases a "meaningful, public statement" on insulating British homes.

Insulate Britain has written a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel in which it "profoundly" apologised "for the disruption we have caused" over the last week.

But the group demanded a "meaningful, public statement to insulate the housing stock of the UK by 9pm tonight".

It said if the Government meets its demand, "disruption to the M25 network will cease".

A spokesperson earlier said: "Actions will continue until the Government makes a meaningful commitment to insulate all of Britain's 29 million leaky homes by 2030, and all social housing by 2025."

Read more: PM insists M25 protesters do not do 'any favours to their cause' amid more disruption

The protesters started Monday's demonstration shortly after 8am as the morning rush hour got under way, with some glueing their hands to the road. Police arrested more than 30 people across three locations in Hertfordshire and Kent.

Protesters in orange bibs had earlier blocked off the carriageway on a slip road, with drivers beeping their horns and traffic expected to begin backing up.

The road was cleared by 9am.

The group also had protests at Junction 4 on the A1(M) and planned one the M25 near Dartford. A total of 29 people were arrested across Hertfordshire while 12 were detained near Dartford. More than 70 people have been arrested since last week's disruption began.

An enraged driver told the activists: "Why the hell do you think this is the right thing to do?

"I know what you're fighting, I completely agree, this is a really, really good idea, but this is not the way to do it.

"You're causing more pollution with all these cars sitting here just doing f*** all.

"You're making people hate you. Go and protest London, go down to Downing Street."

Another furious motorist was seen being kept away from the activists by police.

The group caused severe disruption as its activists blocked part of the busy motorway throughout last week.

LBC has been told about how a woman who suffered a stroke was delayed for six hours on her way to hospital and angry commuters have blasted the group for harming its own cause with their antics.

Speaking at the demonstration on Monday morning, one activist told LBC: "We have tried reasonable protest, we know that the Government doesn’t listen to what the public says and it’s only by taking radical action, it seems, that we're going to get some kind of radical response to a climate emergency."

She said they wrote a letter to Government warning of "radical action", but the letter was "ignored".

And speaking about people who have suffered medical problems after being caught up in a traffic jam caused by the protests, she said: "It's a total nightmare. But the climate emergency is going to be bringing societal breakdown to this country… This inconvenience is horrendous but it's minor compared to what is down the road if we don’t take things seriously."

Insulate Britain took aim at police for not implementing lower speeds for cars as their activists sprawl across the highway.

It said "this is a standard safety procedure when hazards occur on the motorway" – and the group revealed that its activists will be back on the M25 from 7am on Monday.

The group wrote a letter to Highways England, which said: "People's safety during this campaign has always been our primary objective.

Read more: 'You've ruined your cause': Driver takes on Insulate Britain supporter

Read more: 'Everyone is aware of the crisis': Nick Ferrari clashes with an Insulate Britain supporter

"Therefore, on the 16th September we passed a request to the police to slow down the traffic on the south west parts of the M25 network, as we were aware that supporters of the Insulate Britain campaign would be participating in acts of civil disobedience on that area.

"In the context of the horror of the climate crisis we believe that it is entirely proportionate to create disruption on the motorway network if it means the UK Government fulfils its legal obligation of staying below 2°C which will stop the unimaginable suffering for future generations.

"Our request was refused.

"We write now to request that you review this decision, as campaign supporters will be on the M25 network on Monday 20th September from 7 am."

Chief Superintendent Nick Caveney of Hertfordshire Police said: "Protestors have made it clear that they intend to continue causing disruption. Not only is purposely blocking a highway incredibly dangerous, it also affects thousands of members of the public who are stuck in delays as a result.

"We have robust plans in place in order to minimise any disruption and to allow us to make arrests as quickly as we possibly can. This includes, but is not limited to, monitoring areas that have been identified as possible protest targets.

"Officers were on the scene within minutes of being alerted to protest activity, allowing us to put diversions in place to ease the traffic and to make numerous arrests. All protestors involved in this morning's protests have been arrested and will be taken to custody.

"We are working closely with other affected forces to ensure that any further activity is dealt with effectively and efficiently.

"I understand and appreciate the frustration regarding the considerable delays and inconvenience that has occurred as a result of the protests.

"We have now made a total of 76 arrests in relation to protest activity across Hertfordshire over the last week. Please be assured that a full investigation is underway, and we are in the process of gathering evidence in order to ensure that those breaking the law are brought to justice."

Home Secretary Priti Patel told police to take "decisive action" last week against what she described as the "selfish" group's protest.

One caller told LBC's Andrew Pierce how his mother suffered a stroke and he got caught up by the disruption en route to get medical help.

"I was caught for about six hours in traffic. I was doing a mission of mercy to help my mother," the caller, Chris, said.

"I was there with my mother for six hours watching her slip away, and I could do nothing."

He added: "When we got her to the hospital, the doctors said if we were to have gotten to them within 90 minutes, her symptoms, her recovery would have been minimal."