Balcombe protests: Activists given eviction warning

Protests and police in Balcombe
Image caption Protesters are pushed back by police outside the Cuadrilla exploratory drilling site in Balcombe

Anti-fracking protesters have been warned to leave their camp in Balcombe, West Sussex, ahead of a High Court eviction hearing.

About 100 activists are camped in London Road, near a site where Cuadrilla is test drilling for oil.

West Sussex County Council said it was seeking a possession order to allow "the removal of people, tents, canopies, and caravans from verges".

Protesters at the site said the camp was "considering its response".

Activists have been located at the side of the road for the past two months.

In a statement, West Sussex County Council said: "Appropriate notices about the hearing are being posted on the B2036 so that the people concerned are aware.

"The council reiterated its previous statement that it is seeking this order on road safety grounds, and urges people to move of their own volition.

"Working with Sussex Police, an area has been set aside opposite the gates to the Cuadrilla site where people can lawfully and peacefully protest."

'Fracking fears'

The council, accompanied by bailiffs, served an eviction notice on the camp earlier in the week but instructed agents to seek an order for possession of the road when the protesters did not leave.

Campaigners fear the energy firm's test drilling could lead to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

A spokeswoman for No Fracking in Balcombe Society (Nofibs) said: "Notice has been given of a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, on Monday 16th September 2013 at a time and in a court 'to be confirmed'.

"The camp is considering its response.

"Nofibs reiterates its gratitude to all those who have given up their summer to come and help protect us - Balcombe, Sussex, Britain - from the bullies in our government and the fossil fuel industry."

More than 100 people have been arrested since the protest began in July, including Brighton Pavilion Green MP Caroline Lucas.

Sussex Police said the cost of policing the protest had now reached £2.449m.

Last week, Cuadrilla announced it had withdrawn an application for an extension to its planning permission for exploratory drilling at Balcombe.

A new planning application for the site will be lodged in the near future, the firm said, but this will not go in front of the council before next year.

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