UPDATE: Activists storm energy headquarters
PROTESTERS are preparing to leave the Centrica offices, after occupying the building since 7am this morning.
Greenpeace activists gained access to Centrica's head office, in Maidenhead Road, at 7am and occupied the building in protest against the firm's "over-reliance" on gas and their rising energy bills.
Police were on the scene from 7.30am but were operating low-level surveillance as Centrica bosses chose to negotiate directly with the Greanpeace campaigners, who planned to occupy the building for the entire day.
Louise Hutchings, Greenpeace campaign leader, said: "We are urging Centrica to get off their reliance on gas. The average energy bill has gone up £150 in the last year and £100 of that is down to the rising price of gas. Only £25 is down to the rise in the cost of renewables."
Staff arriving for work were left frustrated on the pavement and told by bosses they weren't able to get into the offices.
Protestors cordoned off the road entrance to the building and blocked the doors.
Around 30 activists were visible outside the offices, while another five were deep inside the building plastering meeting room walls with mock-up energy bills and protest slogans.
Niall Bennett, a Greenpeace campaigner, said: "All our activists are incredibly well trained in non violent direct action.
We are very lucky that we have go som many great volunteers and campaigners to take part. They undergo a lot of training so we can act very quickly when we realise companies, like Centrica, are clobbering people with big bills."
Inspector Graham Hadley, of Thames Valley Police, was leading the operation outside the offices. He said: "As far as we are aware it was a peaceful protest which has been planned by Greenpeace.
"Our role is liasing with the land owners and the protestors. There have been no problems at all."
The activists plan to stay inside the building all day while they negotiate with bosses at the energy giant.
A Centrica spokesman said: "Our priority is to ensure the safety of our employees, the general public and the protesters.
"To that end, we are maintaining a constant line of contact to the police, the emergency services and the local authorities.
"We recognise the impact that higher energy prices are having on household budgets."
This article appeared in Royal Borough Observer 30 Apr 12