Vivienne Westwood joins anti-fracking protest camp as 1,000-strong crowd descends on Balcombe

'I'm anti-fracking and I'm here to protest. There has been no debate,' she says

Environment Editor

Up to 1,000 new protesters, including the fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, started arriving in Balcombe today as the three-week protest against the possibility of fracking at the West Sussex village moved up a gear.

Like many of the existing protesters, the new influx of opponents plan to camp by the site for the next five days and organisers were furiously pitching tents, bringing in food and building make-shift toilets today, as dozens of extra police were drafted in.

Surrounded by activists, Dame Westwood called for a public debate on fracking, which she said could store up problems for decades to come if allowed to proceed.

"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.

The latest protesters, most of whom belong to a coalition called No Dash For Gas, will add to a core of about 200 protesters who started picketing the gate last month and have promised to take "direct action" rumoured to include a plan to invade the site.

Cuadrilla, the company exploring for oil on the site to assess the potential for full-scale production, potentially using fracking, stopped drilling in anticipation of the heightened protest. The company, which is chaired by former BP chief executive Lord Browne, said it will only turn the drill on when it can be confident the site won't be breached - expected to be towards the end of next week at the earliest.

Francis Egan, Cuadrilla's chief executive, sought to diffuse the situation yesterday by emphasising that the group is not fracking on the site at the moment. Furthermore, it could only do so with a permit, which the company has not so far applied for.

"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," he said.

"Any hydraulic fracturing proposal would require a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment, public consultations and multi-agency reviews, all of which would be available for scrutiny," he added.

Vivienne Westwood joined the protesters today at Balcombe Vivienne Westwood joined the protesters today at Balcombe

While Mr Egan stopped short of condemning the protesters actions, the fracking industry body went one step further, and strongly criticised their behaviour.

"The temporary suspension of operations in Balcombe by Cuadrilla due to the actions of certain groups of protesters is something that should concern all those who believe in the democratic process and the rule of law," said Ken Cronin, chief executive of the UK onshore operators group.

"It is not right that the onshore oil and gas industry has to deal with threats of direct action, intimidation and 'mass civil obedience' against our staff and property, which prevent us carrying out our lawful operations," he said.

Meanwhile, the RSPB issued its first objections to fracking yesterday, citing concerns that the controversial drilling technique will harm wildlife and the climate.

Harry Huyton, RSPB head of climate and energy policy, said: “Balcombe has hit the headlines as the battleground in the debate over fracking. The public there are rightly concerned about the impact this new technology will have on their countryside. These are not just nimbys worried about house prices – there is very real public disquiet about fracking.”

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
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

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits