Balcombe fracking protest eviction notice 'flawed'

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Media captionThe council tried to gain a possession order to allow the removal of campaigners

A High Court judge has said West Sussex County Council's attempt to obtain an order to remove fracking protesters from Balcombe was "flawed".

The authority wants to evict about 100 activists camped in London Road, close to where Cuadrilla is testing for oil.

The court heard the protesters' human rights were not taken into consideration by the council.

It is trying to gain a possession order to allow "the removal of people, tents, canopies, and caravans from verges".

Mrs Justice Lang said there was a need to consider the protesters' right to peaceful assembly.

Road safety claim

She had heard from counsel that the proceedings might well be academic as the planning permission given to Cuadrilla three years ago is due to expire on 28 September.

The protesters' barrister, John Cooper, said outside court: "One of the real problems today for West Sussex was that they didn't address at all the human rights issues.

Image caption The camp is near the site of exploratory drilling for oil

"They did not even touch upon them in their documentation - right of protest, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech - all these matters were not touched upon at all.

"That is the critical reason why we find ourselves here with those we represent very happy with the result that they can stay on site now until 28 September, which was their objective right from the beginning."

In a statement, West Sussex County Council said: "We very much regret the adjournment of the case, but accept the court's decision.

"The county council reiterates that the reason for taking this action was to maintain road safety on a busy rural road, unlit at night with a 60mph limit."

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

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

Protesters fears the firm's test drilling could lead to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Sussex Police claims the cost of policing the protest had now reached nearly £2.5m.

Two weeks ago Cuadrilla announced it had withdrawn an application for an extension to its planning permission for exploratory drilling at Balcombe.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 would be lodged in the near future, the firm said, but not before next year.

West Sussex County Council has until 8 October to reapply to the High Court.

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