Who are Insulate Britain, the group blocking M25 traffic, and what are they campaigning for?

Police officers work to free protesters who had glued themselves to a slip road at Junction 4 of the A1(M), near Hatfield, where climate activists carried out a further action after demonstrations which took place last week across junctions in Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey. Picture date: Monday September 20, 2021.  Steve Parsons/PA
Police officers work to free protesters who had glued themselves to a slip road at Junction 4 of the A1(M), near Hatfield Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

A group of environmental protesters has been making headlines as they disrupted traffic on the UK’s busiest motorway during the morning rush hour periods.

Insulate Britain campaigners blocked slip roads and the M25 carriageway itself in Hertfordshire on Monday morning, causing traffic to pile up before 9am.

Protesters sat on the roads to stop traffic, with many gluing themselves to the ground, in their fourth bout of direct action in recent weeks.

Who are Insulate Britain and how did the group start?

The group is an the offshoot of Extinction Rebellion (XR), an environmental movement that has staged numerous protests across the country urging the government to do more to tackle the climate crisis.

Insulate Britain (IB) wrote on its Facebook page the campaign was "set up by people in XR and related networks".

The group began in summer this year, with its website being launched in July.

Since July, the group has been hosting online and in-person events across England and Wales.

Police officers carry away a protester who had glued himself to the highway at a slip road at Junction 4 of the A1(M), near Hatfield Credit: PA

What are they campaigning for?

Campaigners of Insulate Britain are demanding the government perform a comprehensive retro fit of all UK homes to insulate the homes of the poorest people.

The aim is to ensure lower energy bills and warm homes for the most vulnerable and to reduce carbon emissions.

It claims insulating all homes is the "most cost effective way" to reduce the impacts of fuel poverty and reduce CO2 emissions.

In more detailed demands published in September, it said it wants the government to:

  • Fully fund and take responsibility for the insulation of all social housing in Britain by 2025

  • Produce within four months a legally-binding national plan to fund and take responsibility for the full insulation retrofit, with no externalised costs, of all homes in Britain by 2030.

What has the group been doing?

The group began this summer with talks in local areas, while appealing for donations to support members taking action.

In recent weeks, the group said it has staged sit down protests at major roads four times.

On September 13, it staged its first M25 protest at Junction 3 for Swanley in Kent, Junction 6 for Godstone in Surrey, Junction 14 for Heathrow Terminal 5, Junction 20 for Kings Langley in Hertfordshire, and Junction 31 for Purfleet in Essex. A total of 78 people were arrested following the demonstrations.

Insulate Britain protesters blocking the roads on September 13 Credit: PA

On September 17, protesters targeted M25 Junctions three, at Swanley in Kent, nine at Leatherhead in Surrey, and 28, near Brentwood in Essex. Surrey Police said officers had arrested 14 people at junction nine.

And on September 20, Insulate Britain held its fourth protest on the M25 in Hertfordshire, near Amersham and Watford, and near Junction 4 of the A1M, near Hatfield, with many demonstrators gluing themselves to the road. A total of 29 arrests were made by police.

Protesters claim they do not want to disrupt traffic but are forced to out of desperation as they feel "this is the only action we hope the government will take note of".

Officers lead a protester to a police van at a slip road at Junction 18 of the M25, near Rickmansworth Credit: PA

Campaigners have also launched a formal petition on the Parliament website calling on the government to fund and require the insulation of all social housing by 2025. As of September 20, it has had more than 2,900 signatures.

More than 10,000 signatures are needed for the government to respond to the petition and more than 100,000 signatures are needed for the petition to be considered for debate in Parliament.

How has the group been received?

Since the M25 protests, Insulate Britain says it has won over support from several industry experts and architects.

But video suggests M25 drivers were not pleased with the disruption, with footage showing irate drivers trying to move the demonstrators themselves.

The group has also received negative reactions after heartbroken son Chris told LBC News his mum was left paralysed from a stroke after protesters blocking the M25 delayed her journey to the hospital.

Chris, who drove his mum due to ambulance delays, said he was forced to watch his mother "slip away" while stuck in standstill traffic for six hours.