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Greenpeace ditched by DEFRA after Sunak house protest - as police spotted guarding PM's country mansion
4 August 2023, 17:33 | Updated: 4 August 2023, 17:39
Environment Secretary Therese Coffey has ordered civil servants to cease all communication with Greenpeace - after the group's controversial protest at Rishi Sunak's constituency home.
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Coffey's Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has cut all contact with the eco-friendly group as retaliation for the protest at the Prime Minister's constituency home, according to the Guardian.
The indefinite pause was enacted around 12 hours after the group scaled the Yorkshire mansion and draped its facade in black fabric and remained on the roof for nearly five hours.
At the same time, two further activists on the ground unfurled a banner featuring the words "Rishi Sunak - Oil Profits or Our Future?" across the grass in front of the house.
Responding to the escalation, Greenpeace's boss Will McCallum said: “This isn’t about the government engaging with Greenpeace, it’s about them engaging with the world around them. The planet is on fire and Rishi Sunak is acting like nothing’s happening.”
He called the protest “entirely peaceful” and asserted that Greenpeace had been “diligent in our approach to safety” by staging the protests when the house was empty due to the Sunaks being on holiday in California.
Major security questions were raised as four people were arrested after the stunt - and officers have now been seen guarding the mansion to ensure that there is no second protest.
Former North Yorkshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Peter Walker told LBC he was "astonished" at the "major breach of security".
"I am absolutely astonished that they have been able to gain the access that they have," he said.
"It is clearly, in my view, a major breach of security.
"Obviously, nobody was there to prevent what they were doing and they've had access to the roof as well.
"They have done a protest and don’t appear to have caused any damage but, if free access is being granted to that property, people who wanted to do much more serious things would be able to leave devices, booby traps… I think this is a major failing and it grieves me to say it because it's my old police force that's failed."
He added: "I suspect that what has happened is that people have not done their job - in an operational sense - who are much closer to the action.
"But there really does need to be a significant investigation into how this has been allowed to happen."
The group claimed they knocked on the door upon their arrival and said "this is a peaceful protest" - but there was no answer.
It is not known who reported them to police, but by the time officers arrived in force, the four were sat 40ft up on the roof.
One of the four roof activists was identified as Alex Wilson, who lives in Newcastle with their partner but is originally from East Yorkshire. They said they are a "volunteer climber with Greenpeace" and were sat on the roof with "Amy, Mike and Matteo".
The protest comes after Mr Sunak unveiled moves to press ahead with oil and gas exploration and production in the North Sea.
Rishi Sunak tells Nick he's ‘very excited’ about family holiday to Disneyland California
The PM says Labour's energy strategy makes Britain more dependent on Vladimir Putin's Russia.
Philip Evans, Greenpeace UK’s climate campaigner, said: “We desperately need our prime minister to be a climate leader, not a climate arsonist.
"Just as wildfires and floods wreck homes and lives around the world, Sunak is committing to a massive expansion of oil and gas drilling.
"He seems quite happy to hold a blowtorch to the planet if he can score a few political points by sowing division around climate in this country. This is cynical beyond belief.
"Sunak is even willing to peddle the old myth about new oil and gas helping ordinary people struggling with energy bills when he knows full well it’s not true."
Greenpeace activists climb Rishi Sunak's Yorkshire house
"More North Sea drilling will only benefit oil giants who stand to make even more billions from it, partly thanks to a giant loophole in Sunak’s own windfall tax.
"The experts are clear - we can't afford any new oil and gas, and the fossil fuel industry certainly doesn't need another helping hand in destroying the climate.
"What we need is a clean, affordable energy system fit for the 21st century. It’s time for Sunak to choose between Big Oil's profits or our future on a habitable planet."
Greenpeace activists speak from the top of Rishi Sunak's Yorkshire house
A Downing Street source said: "We make no apology for taking the right approach to ensure our energy security, using the resources we have here at home so we are never reliant on aggressors like (Vladimir) Putin for our energy. We are also investing in renewables and our approach supports 1000s of British jobs."
A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said officers were responding to reports of protest activity at a property in Kirby Sigston, near Northallerton. "Our officers are at the scene and managing the situation. We’ll provide a further update in due course."