WATCH: Chaos in the council chamber - four arrests after campaigners invade Norfolk County Council budget meeting
PUBLISHED: 21:16 11 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:37 12 February 2019
The climate change protesters who brought Norfolk County Council to a standstill for four hours have been removed from the chamber - with at least four arrests.
The Extinction Rebellion campaigners occupied the chamber at 10am, in which county councillors were due to discuss the budget.
They were protesting over County Hall’s commitment to a Western Link - the road which would connect the Northern Distributor Road to the A47.
Four of the protesters were arrested after refusing to leave, while others in the group of about 15 left voluntarily.
Police officers had urged them to leave, saying they had breached a public meetings act dating back to 1908.
The meeting was reconvened at just after 2pm.
Council chairman Margaret Stone had attempted to reconvene the meeting at 11am, but the protest continued. A police officer arrived at County Hall and briefly spoke to the former Green county councillor Andrew Boswell, one of the protestors.
But the protest continued in the meantime, with independent county councillor Alexandra Kemp trying to persuade the campaigners to end their protest.
At one point Rule Britannia could briefly be heard coming from the microphones in the chamber. One of the protestors sat in the chairman’s seat, where she proclaimed a climate emergency, and some people in the public gallery threw paper aeroplanes towards councillors.
At just before midday, two police officers arrived at County Hall to have a meeting with council officers about what will happen next.
After the meeting was adjourned for the third time, three police officers told the group that they had breached a public meetings act.
Some councillors booed the group and Mick Castle, independent councillor, shouted ‘Go home’.
The Conservative-controlled council is due to set its budget today, which is likely to add almost 3pc to people’s council tax bills.
But the campaigners are unhappy at the authority’s approach to road building, including their support of the Western Link - a road which would connect the Norwich Northern Distributor Road to the A47.
That road could cross the Wensum Valley, which is a site of special scientific interest.
Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Rebecca Stott said: “We are appalled by Norfolk County Council’s decision to approve the £2m in design costs for this project.
“Norfolk County Council is committed to spending upwards of £160 million on this new link in blind pursuit of more carbon-producing growth.
“The new road will only worsen the climate emergency that we are living in. By the end of this century, perhaps much earlier, large parts of Norfolk and Norwich will be under water and our children and grandchildren struggling to survive.
“Any government’s primary duty is surely to protect its citizens, but our leaders are failing to do this.
“We need to reduce carbon emissions dramatically before we are faced with mass extinctions, dangerous struggles for dwindling resources and climate migration on a massive scale.
“We need our leaders to stop and think, not just plough blindly on.”
Margaret Stone said: “Fortunately we live in a democracy in the UK and accept peaceful protest. “However today we have had to delay the Democratic process whilst a group of people prevent the most important meeting of the year starting, ie discussion of the budget.”