Page last updated at 08:14 GMT, Sunday, 3 August 2008 09:14 UK

Climate camp policing criticised

By Tanya Gupta
BBC News, Kent

Bob Beckey
Councillor Bob Beckey said there had been panic on the peninsula

Police have come under fire at the start of a week-long protest camp against plans for a coal-fired power station in the Hoo peninsula in Kent.

St Mary Hoo parish councillor Bob Beckey said residents feared crime, stop and search checks, and the closure of the A228, Hoo's only main road.

Kent Police said public meetings had been held and neighbourhood officers would be working with the community.

Activists are holding a week-long protest near Kingsnorth power station.

Campaigners have said there is nothing illegal about visiting the camp, that people should make their "own decisions" about direct action, and warned that some participants at last year's Heathrow camp were stopped and searched.

They want to halt E.ON UK's plans for a coal-fired unit at Kingsnorth, which still need government approval. E.ON UK has said the coal-fired unit would be 20% cleaner.

'All kinds of panic'

Mr Beckey, 38, who lives about four miles (6.4km) from Kingsnorth, said police took over the social club in July.

He said children's swimming clubs were cancelled, people could not go bowling or use the squash courts, and the bar was closed.

He said police had warned residents to secure land because of "fringe camps" - where people who are not part of the main camp use sites nearby.

We've got thousands of officers coming in and they don't know me from Adam
Councillor Bob Beckey

The married father-of-four said: "We've got all kinds of panic."

He said crime fears included concerns about trespass, theft of water and electricity, rubbish dumping by fringe campers, and protesters remaining on the peninsula after the camp finished.

And he added: "There are another three, four or five villages out past this point and there is only one road.

"If there was a problem, police wouldn't think twice about closing it and we'd be stuck."

'No roadblocks'

Mr Beckey added most policing on Hoo was usually by community support officers, who knew local people, but said: "We've got thousands of officers coming in and they don't know me from Adam.

"They're going to be interested in everybody because it doesn't matter whether you look like a protester, what car you drive, what bike you ride, how you walk.

"If you're in the area, as far as they're concerned, you're something to do with it."

He said: "I don't want to be stopped and searched regularly for something I've nothing to do with."

The proposed new Kingsnorth power station
Campaigners want to halt plans for a coal-fired unit

A police spokeswoman confirmed landowners had been advised to secure fields and check them regularly because of fringe camps.

She said police had a commercial agreement with the social club, which officers used as a temporary base.

And she said: "We know how vital the A228 is to people on the peninsula.

"Police do not intend to close it and will act quickly to deal with any attempt to block it."

Protesters had assured the force "they do not intend to block the road", she added.

She said there would be more than 400 officers in the area each day, including the helicopter, police horses, and officers working from boats.

But she added the mobile police station was in the area, and neighbourhood officers would be working with the community.

Officers had clear guidelines for using stop and search, she said.


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