West Sussex anti-fracking protesters leave council site

Protesters outside West Sussex County Council building Protesters set up camp outside County Hall on Saturday after the council sought a possession order for roadside verges at Balcombe

Anti-fracking campaigners who had pitched their tents outside council offices in West Sussex have moved on.

About 25 people had been protesting in nine tents outside the headquarters of West Sussex County Council (WSCC) in Chichester since Saturday.

They moved to the site after the High Court granted a possession order for the verges at Balcombe.

The council had argued that there was a safety risk with protesters camped at the side of a 60mph road.

Vanessa Vine, of Frack Free Sussex, said "productive meetings" had been held between protesters and the council on Monday, leading to them agreeing to move on.

She said: "It remains to be seen whether [the council] really is engaging meaningfully with this literally vital issue for residents of West Sussex, or whether the assurances are merely mollifications designed to tidy up the protectors on their front lawn."

National debate

Louise Goldsmith, the authority's Conservative leader, said she intended to write to the prime minister to highlight the need for a nationwide debate about fracking.

Bailiffs moved in to enforce an eviction order granted to the county council earlier

Further talks between the council and campaigners will be held in December, she said.

The council obtained a High Court possession order for roadside verges at Balcombe, where protesters had camped since the summer outside the site used by energy firm Cuadrilla for exploratory oil drilling.

At the height of the protests, more than 1,000 activists gathered there.

The possession order was sought after most protesters left, but a handful remained on the roadside.

The council has provided an alternative protest area near the Cuadrilla site, but has said camping will not be permitted.

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