More protesters descend on Balcombe

Balcombe protests
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.

Balcombe protests
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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A village is calling for an energy company to halt its plans for exploratory drilling in a bid to find gas and oil.