Fracking Firm Halts Work Amid Protest Fears
Up to 1,000 extra protesters are expected to descend on the small West Sussex village of Balcombe this weekend, as the protests against a potential fracking site enters its fourth week.
The entrance to the Cuadrilla site has become the frontline of the eco war on the controversial procedure despite the firm insisting that it is simply conducting exploratory mining and it is unlikely that the site will go into full production.
The number of protesters camped by the roadside has been growing over the past three weeks.
Consisting of both local residents and more seasoned environmentalists, they all share the same aim - to prevent fracking.
"I want fracking to stop in the UK. I think it's an enormous mistake," said Sue Taylor, a Balcombe resident.
The protesters have been critical of the tactics employed by Sussex Police, accusing them of being too heavy handed.
But police have insisted they have helped maintain a peaceful protest and looked after the rights of all of those involved.
"We will continue to facilitate peaceful protest, but newcomers to the site should be aware that if they commit criminal offences then we will collect the evidence and they will be arrested," they said.
The expected arrival of hundreds more protesters from the No Dash For Gas campaign this weekend has led Cuadrilla to halt its exploratory oil drilling work on the advice of the police.
"After taking advice from Sussex Police, Cuadrilla is scaling back operations ahead of this weekend's No Dash For Gas event," said a spokesman for the company.
"During this time, our main concern is the safety of our staff, Balcombe's residents and the protesters following threats of direct action against the exploration site. We will resume full operations as soon as it is safe to do so."
The No Dash For Gas activists were due to stage a protest outside the West Burton power station in Nottinghamshire, a site of previous demonstrations. But they have now diverted their members to West Sussex.
A spokesperson said: "From 16- 21 August, we will respond to the call for support from the community in Balcombe opposing fracking. We share their serious concerns about the environmental and social impacts of fossil fuel extraction in their area.
"Balcombe is a test case for the fracking industry and, if success fully pushed through, could lead to an estimated two thirds of the UK being covered by fracking rigs."
With any such protest there are inevitably always cries of NIMBYism (not in my back yard), but for many of those camped outside the entrance to the site it is a far bigger issue.
Many believe that what goes on in Balcombe could set a precedent for the future of fracking in Britain.
"It's about the whole the UK, it's the fracking issue that we're very, very worried about. It shouldn't be done anywhere because the water pollution risks involved are irreversible," said Balcombe resident Nikki Sanger.