Kingsnorth, England - Climate change activists yesterday occupied the proposed site for Britain's first coal-fired power station in 30 years, claiming the development will cause huge damage to the environment if it goes ahead.
More than 150 protesters descended on the site near the village of Kingsnorth in Kent ahead of next week's Camp for Climate Action, which is expected to attract thousands of environmentalists.
Activist Connor O'Brien said: "The purpose of the climate change camp is to target those businesses and companies who are involved in bringing about destructive climate change. This is the first of six coal-fired power stations being planned in the UK and if they go ahead the impact on the environment will be catastrophic."
The protest started on Sunday when environmentalists gathered at Heathrow airport - the scene of last year's camp - before travelling across London in a "green caravan", stopping off each night to highlight their objections to the proposed power station. The caravan is expected to arrive at Kingsnorth on Sunday along with hundreds of other protesters.
O'Brien said: "We want to make the issue of coal-fired power stations so big and so toxic that they will be widely opposed by the public and it will be impossible for them to go ahead. What we need is properly sustainable solutions."
Medway council in Kent has already given the green light to the £1bn plant, which has been proposed by the German-owned gas and electricity provider E.ON.
The final decision rests with the business secretary, John Hutton, who is expected to make an announcement later this year.
E.ON has argued that the plant will produce power from coal more efficiently and cleanly than ever before in Britain, leading to a cut in carbon emissions of almost 2m tonnes a year. It has also claimed that the plant could help Britain develop carbon-capture and storage (CCS) technology.
The project has received the backing of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, which said Medway council had made a "commonsense" decision. But green groups are fiercely opposed to the plans, arguing they are at odds with the government's commitment to reduce emissions by 60% by 2050.
"The claims about new carbon-capture technology ... are pure greenwash," said O'Brien. "This camp will draw attention to the science behind these claims and outline real sustainable alternatives."
The group had promised to infiltrate the site by digging under fences, or dropping in by air. One group, dubbing themselves the Great Rebel Raft Regatta, is planning to enter the site on pirate ships and boats.
Protesters said they were planning a "rolling programme" of action against Kingsnorth and said other coal plants would be targeted.
The group is well known for its dramatic protests. In June campaigners halted a coal train outside Drax, Britain's biggest power station, and shovelled its contents on to the line into the plant. More than 20 tonnes of coal blocked the tracks as protesters strung ropes between the train and the girders of a river bridge.
Their concerns have attracted wide support. Some 228 MPs signed an early-day motion calling on the government to hold a public inquiry before deciding whether to consent to the Kingsnorth plant. Actor Robert Redford wrote to the climate camp organisers backing the campaign.
A spokeswoman for Kent Police said yesterday that they were monitoring the situation at the Kingsnorth camp.
© 2008 The Guardian