First Balcombe resident arrested for fracking protest


The first resident of Balcombe to be arrested for protesting against fracking in the area is being held by police, protesters said.

Poet Simon Welsh was arrested outside the gates of the Cuadrilla site in the Sussex village shortly after leading singing of the anti-fracking Balcombe Anthem, according to the No Fracking in Balcombe Society (No Fibs).

He was one of a number of protesters arrested today, including one who locked himself to a caravan created as a roadblock across the B2036 London Road through the village.

A No Fibs spokeswoman said he was arrested at the same spot where former Green Party leader and Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas was arrested last month.

"He was arrested shortly after leading the singing of The Balcombe Anthem, to Parry's rousing tune Jerusalem," she said.

"Simon had adapted William Blake's words to express the current threat of industrialisation of our countryside through fracking."

Sussex Police said a 34-year-old man from Balcombe was arrested on suspicion of breaching a Section 14 Public Order Act notice and was in custody this afternoon.

The force said a number of protesters were arrested outside the Cuadrilla drilling site today, including two who tried to block a lorry arriving at the site.

Another man was arrested after using a D-lock to attach himself to the caravan that blocked London Road for more than an hour this afternoon. It was cleared by police at around 3pm.

Anti-fracking protesters were yesterday given 24 hours to move from the roadside where they have been camped for the past two months.

West Sussex County Council confirmed it will remove people, tents, canopies and caravans from the road, near to the site where energy company Cuadrilla is completing exploratory drilling work for oil, over increased concerns for the safety of road users.

Protesters were told yesterday that they would be confined to a specified assembly area from 9am today under the newly imposed Section 14 order following continued disruption.

Sussex Police said assembly would be confined to a clearly delineated area on the western side of the verge opposite the entrance to the Cuadrilla site, starting approximately 10 metres north of the police control van and continuing along the verge for about 30 metres.

Last week, Cuadrilla announced it had withdrawn an application for an extension to its planning permission for exploratory drilling at Balcombe.

The company said a new planning application for the site will be lodged in the near future, but it will not go before the council before next year.