How summer fracking protest unfolded in Sussex village

  • Published

The summer of 2013 saw a sleepy Sussex village hit the headlines as months of protests over fracking led to dozens of arrests.

The protests in Balcombe centred on oil company Cuadrilla's attempt to drill a 3,000ft (900m) vertical well to test for oil. Protesters feared the exploration would lead to fracking.

BBC News takes a look at how events unfolded.

Image source, Getty Images

The protest begins - 25 July 2013

Up to 100 protesters block a lorry trying to enter the site where the test drilling is due to take place.

The vehicle's brake lines are cut during the demonstration, but Sussex Police say the truck is quickly repaired without "interference from any demonstrators".

A protest camp with tents and toilets is established.

Media caption,
Protesters began their campaign if resistance on Thursday

Sixteen protesters arrested - 26 July 2013

Sixteen people are arrested by police as protests intensify in Balcombe.

About 75 police officers are involved in the operation as protesters move a tree across the entrance to the site, blocking access.

Some activists criticise the police response as "disproportionate".

Image caption,
Protesters sit on a tree that had been moved across the entrance
Image caption,
Police forcibly removed protesters blocking the entrance

Drilling delayed - 30 July 2013

Exploratory drilling for oil is delayed again following a sixth day of protests.

Human rights activist Bianca Jagger visits the site and calls on people across the UK to join protesters.

A Tory peer apologises for "any offence caused" after he says fracking should take place in "the North East" because it is "desolate".

Image source, Bianca Jagger
Image caption,
Bianca Jagger urged people across the UK to join the protesters at Balcombe

Protesters glue themselves together - 31 July 2013

Natalie Hynde, daughter of The Pretenders star Chrissie Hynde, is one of two people who glue their hands together outside the test drilling site.

Ms Hynde, 30, and Simon "Sitting Bull" Medhurst, 55, formed a "human lock" by the site gate.

They are freed within a couple of hours and led into police vans.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Simon Medhurst and Natalie Hynde form a "human lock" at the site gate

Fracking protest divides village - 1 August 2013

Protesters block access to the Cuadrilla site with an antique fire engine.

Two people are chained to the steering wheel, two more chained behind them, and two chained to the roof.

Meanwhile, some residents feel their village has been hijacked by "professional protesters".

Image source, BBC news grab
Image caption,
BBC cameras capture the moment an antique fire engine blocks the entrance
Image caption,
Balcombe resident Kathryn McWhirter says most villagers support the protest

Oil drilling eventually starts - 2 August 2013

After nine days of protest test drilling at the Balcombe site finally starts.

Cuadrilla spokesman Matt Lambert says the company made good progress in getting lorries delivering drilling equipment on to the woodland site.

Media caption,
Duncan Kennedy describes the protests that have been taking place in Balcombe

More protesters join camp - 16 August 2013

Cuadrilla scales back exploratory drilling on police advice, as more activists begin arriving at a nearby protest site.

Ewa Jasiewicz, who is helping to organise the six-day protest camp, Reclaim the Power, says the oil company has "no social licence" to operate in Balcombe.

Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood also joins campaigners.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Vivienne Westwood lends her support to anti-fracking campaigners

Activists train for direct action - 17 August 2013

Climate activists train ahead of what they say will be 48 hours of direct action against energy firm Cuadrilla.

Protesters at the Reclaim the Power camp in Balcombe are learning how to use metal tripods to scale heights in readiness for action.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Protesters continue to picket outside the gates

Caroline Lucas MP arrested at protest - 18 August 2013

Green MP Caroline Lucas and her son are among protesters arrested outside the site.

Officers serve a Public Order Act notice, saying the crowd might cause serious damage to property or disrupt the life of the community.

Media caption,
Caroline Lucas: "I have tried to use the democratic processes...the government isn't listening"

Large protest camp ends - 22 August 2013

The large Reclaim the Power camp, which attracted about 1,000 people, ends.

However, 120 protesters remain camped on the roadside near to the gates.

Police scale down their presence and test drilling resumes.

Image caption,
The Reclaim the Power camp pitched its tents in a farmer's field

Eviction halted in High Court - 17 September 2013

An attempt by West Sussex County Council to evict anti-fracking protesters from their camp near Balcombe is adjourned at the High Court.

A High Court judge says the council's attempt to obtain the order is "flawed".

Media caption,
The council tried to gain a possession order to allow the removal of campaigners

Caroline Lucas MP charged - 25 September 2013

Former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas is charged over a fracking protest at Balcombe.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) says the Brighton Pavilion MP faces one count under the Public Order Act and one of obstructing a highway.

Meanwhile, Cuadrilla confirms it found "hydrocarbons" during drilling at the site.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Caroline Lucas MP is charged with obstructing the highway

Protesters told to go - 5 October 2013

Demonstrators still at the site are handed letters urging them to move from roadside verges.

West Sussex County Council says it has given out the letters because of welfare and road safety concerns about people camped by the B2036 London Road.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Protesters say they will vacate the camp at Balcombe by 8 October

Last protesters leave - 19 November 2013

The last five anti-fracking protesters are evicted from their camp in West Sussex.

Protesters have been camped at the site near Balcombe, where energy firm Cuadrilla was test drilling for oil, since August.

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

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

Protests cost police £4m - 21 Jan 2014

Nearly £4m was spent on policing demonstrations at the site of exploratory drilling in West Sussex, the area's police and crime commissioner (PCC) reveals.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Large numbers of police were used to manage the protests

Natalie Hynde guilty - 24 February 2014

Natalie Hynde is found guilty of "besetting" a test drilling site in Balcombe after she superglued herself to another protester.

She told Brighton magistrates her aim was to create a "striking and symbolic" media image.

Simon Medhurst is also found guilty.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Simon Medhurst and Natalie Hynde denied the charges

Caroline Lucas found not guilty - 17 April 2014

Green MP Caroline Lucas and her four co-defendants are cleared of obstructing a public highway and a public order offence at a protest in Balcombe at Brighton Magistrates' Court.

Giving a statement outside the court, the Brighton Pavilion MP, said: "This judgement is right but this is not a victory or cause for celebration.

"We will continue to campaign to end fracking and only celebrate when our world is on the path to a clean energy future."

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Ms Lucas said the judgement was not a victory or cause for celebration