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Balcome Fracking Protest - The Story So Far...

7th August 2013
By Peter Chapman

Unless you've been living under a rock, then you'll know that there's a protest going on in Balcombe. Some land is being used for exploritary drilling by a company called Cuadrilla. It could ultimately lead to the controversial process of 'fracking'.

Is Fracking Good Or Bad?
If you listen to the Government and those set to profit out of it - they'll tell you that it's completely safe, will lead to gas bills reducing by 30% and how it's vital that we find alternative energy supplies sooner rather than later.

Opponents will tell you that our water supply will be poisoned from all the chemicals that will leak out of the wells, that our countryside will be industrialised and how our gas bills won't get any cheaper as the fat cats won't pass the savings onto the consumer!

What's Actually Going On At The Protest Site?
Members of BHU have spent some time with the protesters at the Lower Stumble drilling site in Balcombe over the past 14 days. Here's what's been going on...

The Protesters

Reports in the media say that the protest has been hijacked by people that don't live in the area. Granted, you won't find many people from Balcombe on the front line each day, but is it so wrong for people across Sussex and further afield wanting to help raise the profile of the anti-fracking movement? We've met people from Brighton, Lewes, Bexhill, Hastings, Worthing, London, Lancashire and Somerset. They're a very friendly bunch with a great sense of community around the camp.

Over the 14 days, the camp infrastructure has been growing. There are many marquees and large tents all serving various purposes. There's a kitchen, a chillout area with furniture, a kids play area, an information tent, a meditation tent, oh, and there's 4 portaloos too!

The Balcombe residents are kindly helping with the food and water supplies, even doing people's laundry and taking away mobile phones to recharge.

The Police

Sussex Police have had a huge presence at the site and not without controversy.

On day two they were accused of brutality as they broke up a formation of protesters sitting in front of the gates to the drilling site. Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East, wrote to Sussex Police wanting an explanation. Read his letter here. A female protester was shoved to the ground on Thursday and required treatment from the paramedics.

There was more controversy when the police authorised the towing of a vintage fire truck away from the entrance of the site while some protesters were still locked down in the back. Many claimed that this was highly illegal and unsafe.

Over 30 arrests have been made at the protest site. Some have appeared rather harsh, some people however deserved arrest for stupidity. In the cases of novel direct action, the police had no option than to arrest those involved, but at least they did it in a friendly way.

The big public concern is how much this police operation is costing the tax-payer. It's easily into the hundreds of thousands of pounds already. The amount of officers, vehicles and equipment at the drilling site has been phenomenal.

As much as some people would love the protesters to pack up and go home, thus ending the police operation, others are suggesting that the drilling company Cuadrilla should be contributing towards the bill as the police are being viewed as armed guards for the company and less of 'ensuring the safety of the public'.

From a personal point of view, the police have mainly been in good spirits, happy to share a joke and have a chat. 'At the end of the day' they have a job to do no matter what their own opinions are on the fracking issue.

The Media

It's been a media scrum at times at the drilling site. ITV, BBC, Meridian Tonight, South East Today, Sky News and even international news broadcasters have been covering the protest. There's also been many independent filmmakers and people with a handful of subscribers on YouTube claiming to be 'influential'.

The written press have also been out in force. Some journalists have been cunningly nice to the protesters in order to get quotes, only to go back to their offices and write pieces totally burying them!

Mr BHU was very excited last Thursday (August 1st) when he got to chat to, and shake the hand of Rod Liddle of the Sunday Times. Rod was in Balcombe to make a video about Fracking.
rod liddle
You're most likely to know of Rod Liddle from this very funny video that he made about council jobsworths... Watch: Rod Liddle's Got Issues: Council Monkeys

The Balcombe Residents

Reports in the media suggested that that a large number of residents were no fussed by fracking and were very unhappy about professional protesters hijacking their campaign. Well, these claims were put to bed on Saturday as hundreds from the village marched to the protest site...

When they arrived, the villagers announced the results of their own door-to-door survey...

85% of villagers said that they are AGAINST fracking! The villagers also gave a public show of support for the protesters staying at the drilling site.

What's Next?
Parts of the national media and some politicians are starting to join the side of the anti-frackers. Cuadrilla may have started to drill in Balcombe, but the village is still the national focus for everything fracking. The protesters will remain as they fight to bring the views on fracking to the attention of the whole country and influence the government to withdraw drilling licences to companies such as Caudrilla.

Come August 16th, things are going to be getting VERY interesting at the drilling site.
Read: New Protest group to come to Balcombe with aim to stop the drilling by any means!

It's always good to share, so let your friends know about this story!

Got an opinion on this story? Leave a comment below.....
How do you feel about all the protesters decending on Balcombe? What are your thoughts on Sussex Police having to send around 100 officers a day to the site to keep order?
Do you plan on visiting the protest site? What do you think will happen with another 200+ protesters come along on August 16th?

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