Balcombe villagers sign pro-fracking letter

Police officer kneeling on man's head Dozens of people were arrested while protesting outside the test drilling site

Sixty people in a village at the centre of an anti-fracking campaign have signed a letter backing the practice.

Protesters fear test drilling for oil in Balcombe, West Sussex, could lead to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Dozens of people have been arrested outside the Cuadrilla site, including Green MP Caroline Lucas.

However, in the letter, village residents say they "deplore the abuse" of Cuadrilla employees, police and the establishment of the protest camp.

'Extreme minority'

The letter states that the "new technology" of fracking should be "facilitated".

It states: "Let other communities be warned that our hitherto friendly village has suffered not only from the protesting crowds but prior to that from the intemperance of self-appointed 'activists', unfair abuse of our parish council, politicisation of the village fete, unsightly banners and, above all, spreading of unwarranted fear."

It continues: "We deplore the abuse suffered by employees of the drilling company, and the police, extended trespass, and the establishment of a semi-permanent protest camp on hitherto beautiful road verges, actions which add up to an abuse of the undoubted right to peaceful protest,"

Police guard lorry entering site Sussex Police is applying to the Home Office for extra funding to cope with the protests

However, Vanessa Vine from Frack Free Sussex, said the pro-frackers represented only an "extreme minority" of villagers, estimating they made up 30 households or fewer.

She said: "The vast majority of people in Balcombe are utterly opposed to this and support the cavalry of people who have come from all over the country."

Cuadrilla is drilling a 3,000ft (900m) vertical well and a 2,500ft (750m) horizontal bore south of the village in a search for oil.

There have been arrests throughout the summer, with more than 30 people arrested during the Reclaim the Power camp organised by campaign group No Dash For Gas.

While this protest took place, Cuadrilla scaled back its operation on advice from police. Drilling recommenced on 21 August.

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