Anti-fracking activists arrested at oil drilling site

Police have arrested several anti-fracking protesters at a sit-in at an oil drilling site near a village, where some activists played cricket to prevent lorries from entering the area.


Protesters linked arms on a log across the entrance to the site

The demonstration, which began on Thursday, is against plans by fracking company Cuadrilla to explore for oil and gas in the area.

Local residents, including mothers and children, set up gazebos and bunting by the roadside, while some protesters stopped lorries from entering the area by playing cricket outside the site in Balcombe, Sussex.

However, at midday on Friday, 90 police arrived and told around 12 protesters, who had linked arms on a log across the entrance to the site, that they must move.

As a helicopter circled above, 10 protesters were arrested.

Most of the protesters from the commuter village of 7,000 people left in shock.

It is believed those arrested were local environmental activists.


Police arrive to the site

Within an hour the first lorries started arriving on the site, to shouts of protests from behind police lines.

Rafe Usher-Harris, 17, a villager and student at Michael Hall, a private school in nearby Forest Row, was crying at the scene.

“It is disgusting,” he said. “People from the village do not want this.

“It is not just environmental loony left eco socialists. It is ordinary people protesting. Ninety per cent of our village are against this.”

His mother Juliet Harris, 53, a television producer, pointed to Balcombe being an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

She warned this could happen to other communities protesting against fracking.

“It just seems like a bulldozer is being driven through our community and other communities and this is the frontline.”

fracking-police-ar_2628728cHelen Savage, a 38-year-old mother, who saw the arrests, said the village would not give up the fight.

“We are completely committed to protesting through every legal channel we can,” she said.

“This goes beyond Balcombe, it is not a nimby campaign. It is against Government policy which is to frack nationwide. Once people realises what this means they will be extremely concerned. It means a fracking rig every two miles. It will industrialise the landscape.”

Katy Dunne, another villager who stayed to watch the arrests, said the Parish Council was against drilling.

“The villagers are shocked… all the democratic channels were thwarted… and now watching police remove people who were trying to protect all of us… when there is peer-reviewed science showing this industry raises health risks for residents.

“Six per cent of wells leak in a year, 50 per cent within 50 years,” she added.

Sarah Hirst, 37, a teacher, left with her young children as soon as the protest started.

She said she was scared to take part in protests before but felt so strongly she bought along three young children under seven.

She said local people would be showing their anger at the Tories at the next general election.

“At the last election I voted Tory but I have gone Green because of this,” she said.

Mrs Hirst said a wind farm comes down after 25 years, but a faulty well could leak decades afterwards without anyone knowing.

“I would happily have a wind farm and happily support it – a lot of people involved would. It is not a blight on the countryside it is renewable energy in the long term,” she said.

“We do not want a fracking well that could leak into our water for years to come.”

Pamela Barter, 60, whose three grandchildren live in the village, also left when the police arrived.

“This is not Nimbyism,” she said. “It is not just in our backyard. They want to start fracking all over England. We are on the frontline saying no, we don’t want this anywhere.”

Cuadrilla said the drilling would start “as soon as possible”.

“The safety of the protesters, our staff and the public is our priority. The police are talking to negotiators,” the firm said.

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