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More protesters descend on Balcombe

Protesters have tried to stop lorries entering the test site Credit: PA Images

Anti-fracking protests at an exploratory drilling site in Sussex has taken on a festival atmosphere as the demonstration enters its 10th day.

Energy company Cuadrilla announced that it began operations at Balcombe yesterday.

Activists from across the UK have descended on the village which has become a national focal point for the campaign against hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Protests have caused delays to Cuadrilla's plans to drill a 3,000ft vertical well in a project lasting up to three months.

Despite earlier confrontations - and a number of arrests - the protest has taken on a party atmosphere today with about 260 people taking part.

One of the protesters, who would only give his name as Daniel, said: "There are more people here than there have ever been.

Protesters fear fracking will take place at some stage Credit: PA Images

"There's a festival-type atmosphere, people are dancing in the street, it's absolutely packed, it's really nice, there's a real unity of people who have been resident in the camp along with the residents of the village.

"I would say there are about 260 people here today, there's no confrontation with the police today, it's been very peaceful."

Although the energy firm has said it has no plans to use the controversial method of fracking, villagers fear it will at some point in the future.

Fracking involves high pressure liquid being pumped deep underground to split shale rock and release gas supplies.

Opponents of the method have highlighted concerns about potential water contamination and environmental damage, as well as small-scale earthquakes.

Cuadrilla's chief executive, Francis Egan, has tried to soothe concerns by saying his firm has "no intention of ruining the countryside".

Although fracking was not part of the firm's plans, Mr Egan insisted it was safe and would not pose a threat to the public or people's drinking water.

More than 30 people have been arrested since last Friday at Balcombe, mainly on suspicion of obstructing deliveries, including Natalie Hynde, 30, the daughter of the Kinks' Ray Davies and the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde.

Natalie Hynde's boyfriend, veteran eco-campaigner Simon "Sitting Bull" Medhurst, 55, was also held after the pair superglued their hands together around the gate for around two hours.

Superintendent Lawrence Hobbs, of Sussex Police, said: "My officers are there to allow protesters to safely and peacefully protest. We also need to uphold the right of the company to operate and bring their vehicles on to the site.

"The vast majority of the protesters feel very passionately about this issue and are protesting peacefully. If protesters do become violent they should understand that this is not acceptable and they will be arrested."

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Cuadrilla starting to test equipment

Protestors at Balcombe ahead of fracking equipment being tested Credit: ITV Meridian

Energy company Cuadrilla say that have not started drilling but have starting testing equipment ahead of fracking in Balcombe.

The anti-fracking protests at the site have entered its ninth day which has in turn delayed the project.

A Cuadrilla spokesman said: "Drilling could start later on friday."

Campaigners fear the project at Lower Stumble could lead Cuadrilla to go on to conduct hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

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Protesters' fire truck removed

Police monitor the removal of the protesters' fire truck. Credit: David Johns

A fire truck being used by activists at the site of a mass protest over exploratory oil drilling in West Sussex has been removed. The antique engine was brought onto the site at Balcombe by protesters to block the road. They then bolted themselves to it inside and on the roof.

Those involved have been removed and taken into custody by police. They are hoping to reopen the road into the site shortly.

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