'Major breach of security': Ex-police chief demands probe as five people held after eco-protesters scaled PM's home

3 August 2023, 13:55 | Updated: 3 August 2023, 15:22

Five Greenpeace protesters have been held after climbing Rishi Sunak's home
Five Greenpeace protesters have been held after climbing Rishi Sunak's home. Picture: Alamy

By Stephen Rigley

Major security questions were raised following five people have been held after Greenpeace protesters managed to climb onto Rishi Sunak's home while he is away on a family holiday.

The activists spent around seven hours on the roof of the Prime Minister's £2million mansion in Richmond, North Yorkshire, while he spends ten days in the US with his wife and two daughters.

They covered it in what they described as 200 sq m (2,150 sq ft) of 'oily-black fabric.' This was part of a protest at his backing for a major expansion of North Sea oil and gas drilling.

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.

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."

Greenpeace activists outside Mr Sunak's constituency home
Greenpeace activists outside Mr Sunak's constituency home. Picture: Greenpeace
Protesters after coming down from Rishi Sunak's house
Protesters after coming down from Rishi Sunak's house. Picture: Alamy

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.

The Prime Minister will approve hundreds of new licences to drill for fossil fuels off the UK coast as he seeks to hit Labour over the cost of living.

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."

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Protesters on the roof of the PM's home
Protesters on the roof of the PM's home. Picture: LBC

"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

Police are at the North Yorkshire home of Rishi Sunak after it was scaled by Greenpeace activists, a No 10 source said.

They said: "The police are in attendance.

"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."

Police near Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's house in Richmond, North Yorkshire after Greenpeace activists climbed onto it's roof
Police near Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's house in Richmond, North Yorkshire after Greenpeace activists climbed onto it's roof. Picture: Alamy

Greenpeace activists climb Rishi Sunak's Yorkshire house

It comes after Mr Sunak said his daughters are his "ready-made focus group" on climate change during an exclusive phone-in on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast.

"In the same way I'm explaining it to everyone else listening, I'd make the same case to them," Mr Sunak said.

"We are going to get to net zero but even when we’re there we will still need fossil fuels."

He added: "Like most people, they're not eco zealots, they're open to sensible, practical arguments."

He said the UK's record is "fantastic" when it comes to cutting emissions, adding that among all G7 countries, the UK was the fastest to have decarbonised.

"We should not take any lectures from anybody about our record - our record is fantastic - it's better that everyone else's," he said.