Hundreds converge on Balcombe as fracking protests continue

Protesters have vowed to continue after Caudrilla announces plans to scale back their operation

Hundreds of demonstrators have arrived at an anti-fracking protest camp in West Sussex on Saturday, swelling numbers on the second day of a proposed six day protest.

Police and the protest organisers No Dash for Gas anticipate up to 1,000 activists joining the anti-fracking demonstrations at the Balcombe camp as it emerged earlier today that the cost of policing the operation has risen to nearly £750,000.

Demonstrators will join the six-day Reclaim the Power Camp on the outskirts of the West Sussex countryside, which has become the epicentre of fracking protests since energy firm Cuadrilla prepared to drill for oil at the site.

Groups of protesters are due to march south from Balcombe to the Cuadrilla site on Sunday afternoon.

Sussex police are bolstering their number with officers from ten other forces from around the country.

A 23-year-old man was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of a public order offence, after threats were made to a local landowner who asked a group camped on land close to the drilling site to leave. This brings to 46 the total number held since the protests sprang up in the area three weeks ago.

Anti-fracking campaigners were bolstered by a well publicised visit from fashion designer Vivienne Westwood on Friday, who expressed her solidarity with protesters. Ms Westwood told the crowd: "I'm anti-fracking and I'm here to protest. There has been no debate. They are trying to rush this thing through, for what?"

"I'm sure it's bad and the only people who are going to benefit from it is this energy company….They all have vested interests. It's a kind of club….Who do they [the government] think they are when I would say most of the country is really against fracking, particularly at this point in time, when we don't know what's at stake," she said.

Campaigners argue test drilling by Caudrilla could lead to hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, but the company has said it is unlikely to turn the site into a fossil fuel production area.

The controversial method of fracking involves high pressure liquid being pumped deep underground to split shale rock and release gas supplies.

Opponents of fracking have highlighted concerns about potential water contamination and environmental damage, as well as small-scale earthquakes.

Caudrilla has now scaled back its operation on the advice of Sussex Police amid fears of unrest after police revealed the protests, which began last month, have so far cost taxpayers three quarters of a million. Officers from 10 other forces have been drafted in to assist.

Some Balcombe residents have expressed anger towards the disruptions created by the protesters, arguing they are not representative of the community.

But Ewa Jasiewicz, of anti-fracking group No Dash for Gas, said: “We are hoping to mobilise the massive public opinion that is opposed to fracking and to fossil fuel and is looking for cheap, sustainable, clean energy.

“It's in all of our interests to have that and it's possible to achieve this. The obstacles to this are political and not technical.

“Fracking our earth and industrialising our countryside is not the answer. In fact it's going to exacerbate climate change and it's going to crash our carbon reduction targets.”

She said activists have a “working relationship” with the farmer who owns the land on which the camp was being set up.

But Richard Ponsford, who owns Sidney Farm where the camp is, said the activists came on his land without his permission.

Mr Ponsford, 59, said: “About three or four vans came on to the field and they spent about three hours barricading the field in.

“I certainly did not give my permission. There is no way I would have allowed them in at all.”

Balcombe has been thrust into the spotlight as the debate surrounding fracking has intensified, with disputed claims that it could cause environmental harm and bring down energy bills.

David Cameron has insisted the whole country should accept fracking, claiming it will attract “real public support” when the benefits, such as potentially cutting energy bills, are explained.

The Prime Minister also claimed a thriving shale-gas industry could create tens of thousands of jobs.

He sought to play down fears about the environmental dangers posed by fracking, claiming there was “no evidence” that it would cause contamination of water supplies or other damage if properly regulated.

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said: “Cuadrilla's exploration work at Balcombe involves drilling a conventional oil well.

“External groups protesting against hydraulic fracturing at Balcombe do so without any work proposal from Cuadrilla to judge.

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
films
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
art

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt
art

News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game