Fitfty three Shell petrol stations in London and Edinburgh have been targeted by Greenpeace in a protest against the company’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic.

Protesters plans included switching off fuel pumps, covering Shell signs with a Save the Arctic banner; positioning life-sized polar bear models on the canopy; as well as chaining up pumps with bicycle padlocks.

Greenpeace claims Shell is preparing to unleash a drilling fleet of huge vessels upon the "fragile and beautiful Arctic, home of the polar bears".

The organisation says an oil spill would have devastating consequences on this fragile environment and the animals that live in it: "We need to tell them to stop - that’s why today we’re shutting down all of Shell’s petrol stations in London and Edinburgh. Dozens of people are hitting over 100 Shell garages throughout Monday 16 July and we’re streaming it live on a dedicated channel."

On the Greenpeace website the organisation explains its actions, and how it planned to shut down all Shell’s sites in Edinburgh and London: "Each petrol station has a safety ’off’ switch. You can spot them quite easily as they’re in a bright red box. We are switching it off by pulling down the handle on the side of the box and then removing the fuse, so it cannot be turned on again. We are also chaining up all of the pumps with bicycle locks. Once we’ve removed the fuse, we’re going to post them to Shell’s HQ with a letter explaining why we’ve done this."

A Shell spokesman said that operation on all the sites had returned to normal by the afternoon and released the following statement: “Shell recognises that certain organisations are opposed to our exploration program offshore Alaska, and we respect the right of individuals and organisations to engage in a free and frank exchange of views about our operations. Recognising the right of individuals to express their point of view,  we only ask that they do so with their safety and the safety of others, including the general public and Shell personnel, in mind.
“Shell has met with numerous organisations and individuals who oppose drilling offshore Alaska. We respect their views and value the dialogue. We have extended this same offer for productive dialogue to Greenpeace."