Balcome anti-fracking campaigners set up camp outside council headquarters

Words by Adela Ryle

anti fracking chichesterAround 25 anti-fracking campaigners have moved to protest outside West Sussex County Council headquarters after their Balcombe roadside camp was repossessed last Monday.

The Balcombe site, which formed in opposition to test drilling by energy firm Cuadrilla, was over 1,000 people strong at the height of the protests in August.

On Monday however, the High Court granted the council a possession order for the grass verges where protestors had been camping since July.

Vanessa Vine, of Frack Free Sussex commented that the camp had been moved in response to the council’s decision to take legal action against “peaceful protectors”.

“It goes to show that the fight is not over. In many ways Balcombe was just the beginning,” she added.

More than 70 people arrived at the Chichester County Hall camp when protests began on Saturday and more are expected to arrive over the coming days.

Frack Free Sussex intends to submit a statement to council officials later today, detailing their concerns.

West Sussex County Council were made aware of plans for the demonstration and stressed that “appropriate arrangements are in place to ensure any protest remains lawful”.

While most protestors had left the Balcombe site when Cuadrilla packed up their equipment, a small number had remained until last week.

The council says that it has provided an area for protests but that camping is no longer permitted on the verge due to the safety risk on a 60mph speed limit with no lights.

Cuadrilla has now signed a 30-year lease on the site however, enabling it to continue exploratory drilling, and campaigners feel their concerns are not being addressed.

The demonstration is also centred around planning applications for further drilling sites, including one near Kirdford which was submitted to WSCC by Celtique Energie.

An application is also expected for another exploration site in Fernhurst.

Kenny Lloyd, a filmaker who has been at the camp all weekend, commented: “We are a group of concerned friends and have tried all due processes of democracy and have been ignored.”

Another of the protestors, ‘Peaceful’ Dan added: “We feel that WSCC has failed its constituents miserably.”

“They have failed to answer our questions – maybe they will answer us if we occupy their front lawn… This is a country-wide problem but WSCC is failing the people they claim to serve.”

Sussex police described the demonstration as “a small gathering of people and tents outside the West Sussex County Council buildings”.

“It is a peaceful protest taking place on land belonging to the council. Officers are dealing with the situation and are in liaison with West Sussex County Council.”

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