Fracking firm scaling back operation at Balcombe

 
Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood with campaigners in Balcombe Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood has joined campaigners at Balcombe
Protests at Balcombe Police expect an extra 1,000 campaigners at the protest site this weekend
Reclaim the Power camp Campaign group No Dash For Gas has organised a six-day camp at Balcombe
Test drilling equipment Cuadrilla said it was scaling back drilling during the event for safety reasons

Energy firm Cuadrilla has scaled back exploratory drilling in West Sussex on police advice, as more activists begin arriving at a nearby protest site.

The company has been looking for oil near the village of Balcombe, but has not ruled out using the controversial technique of fracking to release gas.

Police believe environmental activists at the site are about to begin a campaign of civil disobedience.

They expect about 1,000 extra people to join existing protesters this weekend.

The BBC's Angus Crawford said about 100 activists arrived by train at Balcombe railway station at about 13:00 BST before being escorted to the demonstration site by police.

Some of the protesters were waving anti-fracking banners and others were wearing Guy Fawkes masks, which have become a feature of demonstrations around the world.

Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood also joined campaigners on Friday afternoon.

Fences erected

At the scene

A small number of protesters arrived at Balcombe station and were escorted towards the fracking site by police.

It's difficult to make an accurate estimate, but about 100 protesters were involved.

They were joined by the international fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.

The protesters, who were quiet and orderly, were escorted by at least five police vehicles and between 30 and 40 officers on foot.

Cuadrilla's decision to scale back its drilling means exploration operations will be effectively at a standstill just two weeks after drilling got under way at Balcombe.

The number of workers on the site has been reduced and large reinforced fences are being erected.

Cuadrilla said in a statement: "After taking advice from Sussex Police, Cuadrilla is scaling back operations ahead of this weekend's No Dash For Gas event.

"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."

Matt Lambert, a spokesman for the energy firm, said workers had faced intimidation during their time at the site in Balcombe.

'Tremendous provocation'

He added: "They're basically just oil men trying to go about their business, they're ordinary engineers, geologists and so forth, they're not used to this sort of thing and they've put up with it very stoically.

"It is quite unpleasant, people take photographs of you, take photographs of the number plate, we have to have police escorts out to get away from the site and of course it's unpleasant."

Campaigners welcomed Cuadrilla's decision to scale back its operations.

Start Quote

"Cuadrilla's announcement that they'll halt drilling is already a victory for us, but it's only a start”

End Quote Luke Johnson

Luke Johnson said: "Cuadrilla's announcement that they'll halt drilling is already a victory for us, but it's only a start.

"We would like to make sure they don't frack in Balcombe, or anywhere else at all."

Cuadrilla is drilling a 3,000ft (900m) vertical well and a 2,500ft (750m) horizontal bore but said fracking for shale gas would need fresh permission.

'Take back power'

Environmental campaigners have been camped at the site for the past three weeks, with about 40 people arrested in that time.

Sussex Police believe more people will arrive for a six-day camp organised by the No Dash For Gas group.

It warned it would engage in mass civil disobedience - last year members occupied West Burton power station in Nottinghamshire.

Jamie Kelsey Fry, from No Dash For Gas, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme said that the protesters would be doing "everything they can to make the country think twice" about fracking.

"It was exactly these kinds of actions hundreds of years ago that gave women the vote with the Suffragettes. It's absolutely no different," he said.

Mr Kelsey Fry added the protesters would be risking "their liberty and personal harm" to highlight awareness of the government's "disastrous choice" to pursue fracking.

"This is not fun. People aren't going down there for fun. It's not fun to see the heavy policing that I predict will be happening over this weekend," he added.

In an open letter, Balcombe Parish Council chairman Alison Stevenson called on the group not to break the law.

Fossil fuels

Start Quote

We are acutely aware of the impact that this is having on the residents of Balcombe and back their call to protesters not to engage in any criminal activity”

End Quote Supt Lawrence Hobbs

Supt Lawrence Hobbs, of Sussex Police, said: "We are acutely aware of the impact that this is having on the residents of Balcombe and back their call to protesters not to engage in any criminal activity in the pursuit of their aims.

"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."

Cuadrilla has said it is "unlikely" to use the site for the production of fossil fuels.

Both Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have spoken out against the company's activities.

Prime Minister David Cameron has urged the UK to embrace fracking - short for "hydraulic fracturing" - as an important source of energy production.

But opponents of the technique claim it can cause water contamination and environmental damage and can also trigger small earth tremors.

Professor Peter Styles, who advises the government on fracking safety, told the Today programme there was a danger that opposition to the process would "perpetuate the use of coal-fired energy... which is by far the worst kind of energy rather than gas".

"Replacing coal with gas is the logical step to reducing the UK's carbon footprint and having stable gas prices," he said.

fracking graphic
 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 21.

    End to the practice until we have been fully assured of the safety of the procedure - particularly regarding the effects on water tables, and the toxic chemicals produced. Convince me of this, and I will be more likely to support it.

    At present the whole process smacks of quick profits for some, and guess who'll be paying the clean up bill! Clue - no one in Gideon's family circle.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 20.

    It is truly profound the extent the Human race will go to insure their thirst for Fossil Fuels, an unsustainable source of energy that we can not rely on for much longer. It shows the integrity of the people we call our leaders.

    Fracking is well known to have devastating environmental effects, and this government is well known for exchanging the environment and this planet earth for profit.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 19.

    @7.
    engineer-neil

    So 'civil disobedience' (law breaking to you and I) looks like it trumps the perfectly legitimate activities of a private company. This country gets worse every day.

    Totally agreee what with corrupt banksters, politicians, police, utility companies,media, pot holed roads, we are looking like a third rate banana republic every day. !!!

  • rate this
    -55

    Comment number 18.

    Fracking Is Illegal just because the government want to say it's okay for money does not make it so. sometimes they are wrong an on this occasion they are certainly wrong about Fracking, so we can make the law's for them as well when they are wrong. Fracking is Illegal and the people involved are criminals.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 17.

    8.
    Trog
    3 Minutes ago

    These hippies will not be happy until people are living in caves, cooking their neighbours over wood fires, in a second stone age. Time to withdraw their benefits and make them work for a living.

    Well said, just a minority getting theor way again. I'll go by what the experts say, not a few professional demonstrators.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 16.

    These fracking protests just go to show that big business has far more rights than the common man.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 15.

    I think they should stop when the people complaining stop using fossil fuels themselves. Until then it's sheer hypocrisy and nimbyism from protestors.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 14.

    Heavy rain forecast for today - will be interesting to see how many protest tourists show up!!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 13.

    A representative group of UK citizens makes a stand for the common person?
    The reality is a group of disaffected and hopeless failures have grasped at a way of making their lives feel meaningful. The so-called protest is not about fracking, nor is it anything to with freedom of speech or democratic rights. It's all a big cry for help that's amplified by a media machine that's desperate for news.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 12.

    believe it when i see it - all headline stuff to make people believe they've won.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 11.

    Good, if we don`t stop this then we will see our green and pleasant land turned into an industrial site

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 10.

    Oh dear the Tory machine in the South East has tried to fool you yet again! Their excuse this time is to reel back Fracking exploration because of the increasing amount of protesters in the area, you mean a Tory heartland! I think Just call me Dave we're all in this together (except us) means go North much further North!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 9.

    CHEMICALS INJECTED INTO THE WATER TABLE

    I am all for extracting the oil. But not at the cost of the water table.

    Injecting these chemicals in the Earth is incredibly stupid.

    The oil companies history is full of pollution. And that's what you will drink. Those chemicals will be coming out of the tap.

    I truly hope British people are still intelligent.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    These hippies will not be happy until people are living in caves, cooking their neighbours over wood fires, in a second stone age. Time to withdraw their benefits and make them work for a living.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 7.

    So 'civil disobedience' (law breaking to you and I) looks like it trumps the perfectly legitimate activities of a private company. This country gets worse every day.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 6.

    Why can we not comment on Yelena Isinbayeva? How is it a Russian has more freedom of speech than we do? Imagine a British celebrity being brave enough to criticise homosexuality.

    We've done fracking to death. Overwhelmingly people won't get any of the benefits but are exposed to all the risks. Its a bad deal.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 5.

    But will the realise protesters won't go away? I'm tired of the whole argument to be honest. The only people to benefit from fracking will be those ripping off the public for high energy prices ... and I bet they get a government grant (may tax money) to help them do it.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 3.

    If the best we can do in the 21st century is drill holes to release gas from the earth, we can't haven't made much progress. With all the technology we have and a need to look after the environment, we should be focusing on life after oil and gas with solar, wind, wave, nuclear and other forms of energy that don't involve blowing holes in our planet. We need to do much better than Cuadrilla can.

  • rate this
    -63

    Comment number 2.

    We have to be careful of these science things that are being done nowadays, remember the bible is more believed before science.The Bible says that God created distinct groups of animals “after their kind Geneses 1:1 and therefore we must be careful what we agree upon

    Extraction at Balcombe maybe endangering the species below the ground which God created

    I don't like this I am afraid.

 

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