The battle of Balcombe is hotting up as more and more environmentalists answer the call from activists and local villagers to stop Cuadrilla from destroying the local countryside and water supply. Protesters have been slowing the arrival of equipment to the site which is now reportedly several days behind its drilling schedule. Meanwhile two activists were arrested yesterday (July 31st) for gluing themselves to the gates of the site holding up deliveries for several hours. Today an old fire engine is blocking the gate with several demonstrators locked onto it. Local people continue to welcome the activists camping at the gates by bringing food and other supplies.
Villagers have also uncovered documents from the land registry that seriously question the legality of the drilling project. Restrictions on the land include not causing “annoyance”, “nuisance” or “damage” to local people and their property. The storing of dangerous chemicals is also prohibited. So many are wondering if the police shouldn’t be arresting the drivers of the delivery lorries and giving out community service awards to the people trying to stop them?
Elsewhere the father in law of Chancellor George Osbourne has become a one man PR disaster for the Tories by saying that fracking should only occur in the “desolate” North East. He went on to alienate the rest of the North of England by saying he actually meant the North West. The Tory peer has become an instant figure of hate for everyone residing north of Watford as well as his own party’s press and communications department. With the media becoming steadily more hostile Cuadrilla Chief Executive Francis Egan has been trying to reassure local people that the drilling rig will not result in any long term damage to the environment. Today (August 1st) a coachload of activists will be arriving in Balcombe from Blackpool bringing evidence of what Cuadrilla’s activities did to their local area.
Another cause for concern among local people is the mounting cost of the police operation. Anyone attending a festival or football match will be aware that policing costs are covered as part of the ticket price. However it has emerged that Cuadrilla (a multi-billion pound company) are paying nothing towards the bill which is being picked up by local tax payers. Activists noticed a large cherry picker being brought onto the site yesterday suggesting that G4S have serious concerns about keeping it secure when/if the drilling starts. REEL NEWS contacted the Press Office of Sussex Police to ask about the cost of the operation. We were told that no figures would be available until after the protests end. Also that on Wednesday “75 officers were deployed to the protest”. We know this to be untrue as we counted 60 being used to escort the lorries in. A further 29 around the camp, 5 evidence gatherers, 6 more further down the road towards Whitmans Green, 3 police motor cyclists and four more traffic police stationed at the roundabout towards the M23. The operation is 24 hours a day. So estimates that it has cost over 1 million pounds already do not seem to be an exaggeration. Why so many police are required for what is an totally peaceful protest with local support remains a mystery?
Photos by Guy Smallman