Balcombe oil: Drill site fracking protests continue

Media caption,
Protesters attempt to prevent police officers escorting a lorry entering the drill site

Anti-fracking protests are continuing at the site of an exploratory oil drilling operation in West Sussex.

Protesters blockaded the site entrance outside the village of Balcombe on Thursday, with 16 people arrested there on Friday.

Earlier, two women were arrested during a third day of demonstrations. Twelve people have been charged.

Oil firm Cuadrilla said it would need fresh permission to carry out hydraulic fracturing - known as fracking.

The company currently has permission to drill a 3,000ft (914m) well and 2,500ft (762m) horizontal bore at the site.

'Where is our voice?'

BBC reporter Juliette Parkin said drilling was not expected to begin at the site until Monday.

Sussex Police said a number of vehicles had been brought into the site during the course of the day by the company and there were up to 80 people protesting.

A spokeswoman said Cuadrilla had obtained authority to extend its operating hours from 13:00 BST to 16:00 but following representations from the protest groups and advice from Sussex Police, the company agreed to stop bringing vehicles into the site shortly after 14:00.

She added: "There have been no injuries to any parties today and the disruption to the local community and road network has been kept to a minimum."

Balcombe resident Georgia Lawe said "90%" of villagers did not want the test drilling.

Image caption,
A protester was arrested after trying to block a lorry going into the site

"Where is our voice? Who is standing up for our voice?," she said.

Protester Daniel Lee said: "It's incredibly distressing - this is day two of arrests that we've seen."

Police cleared the site entrance on Friday, making most of the arrests then as protesters tried to stop trucks entering the site.

Two women were also held on Saturday after an attempt was made to halt a truck.

Supt Steve Whitton from Sussex Police said officers were at the site to ensure people could demonstrate peacefully and allow workers access.

"We are trying to carefully balance the needs of everyone and we will continue to show a proportionate response to the challenge we are facing," he said.

In a statement released on Friday, Cuadrilla said it had been "disappointed by the actions of a minority of the protesters".

It added: "Cuadrilla has followed all legal and regulatory procedures concerning its exploratory drilling plans and obtained the necessary approvals from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and West Sussex County Council."

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