Fracking company scaling back Sussex operation on advice of police
Energy firm Cuadrilla are scaling back their drilling operations in West Sussex on advice from the police.
Environmental campaigners have been camped at the site near the village of Balcombe for about three weeks, protesting against the controversial technique of fracking, which the company has not ruled out using at the site.
The energy firm has reduced the number of workers on the site, and erected large reinforced fences after police warnings of civil disobedience by campaigners, and the possibility of 1,000 extra protestors at the site this weekend.
In a statement, Cuadrilla said: “After taking advice from Sussex Police, Cuadrilla is scaling back operations ahead of this weekend’s No Dash For Gas event.”
The statement continued: “During this time, our main concern is the safety of our staff, Balcombe’s residents and the protesters following threats of direct action against the exploration site.”
Cuadrilla said, however, that they will resume “full operations as soon as it is safe to do so”.
The decision by Cuadrilla has been welcomed by campaigners. Luke Johnson, a protester at the site, called Cuadrilla’s decision a victory for the campaigners, but said “it’s only a start”.
“We would like to make sure they don’t frack in Balcombe, or anywhere else at all,” he continued.
The warning from the Sussex Police comes after the group No Dash For Gas warned it would engage in mass civil disobedience during a six-day camp it has organised at the site.
A representative from the group, Jamie Kelsey Fry, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the campaigners would be doing “everything they can to make the country think twice” about fracking.
Alison Stevenson, the chairperson of Balcombe Parish Council, has written an open letter calling on the group not to break the law.
Superintendent Lawrence Hobbs, of Sussex Police, said the force recognises the impact the protests are having on residents of Balcombe and that, although Sussex Police will continue to facilitate peaceful protest, campaigners committing criminal offences will be arrested.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, injects water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into wells, creating fissures in the rock and allowing shale gas to flow out.
The process, which has been endorsed by the prime minister as a solution to the UK’s energy problems, remains controversial after suggestions that it causes water contamination, environmental damage and small earth tremors.