Residents of the West Sussex village at the heart of a battle over whether the UK should go ahead with fracking have complained at the ongoing protests against the controversial technique.
Earlier this month, hundreds of protesters blockaded the site outside Balcombe where Cuadrilla is undertaking exploratory drilling for oil, leading to 29 arrests including that of green MP, Caroline Lucas. Although a camp of activists in a nearby field has now left, around fifty people remain at a ‘gate camp’, according to Tammy Semede, a protester at the camp who told the Guardian she will stay there “as long as it takes.”
But in an anonymous letter, 60 residents of the village, which has a population of around 2,000, said they wanted to “record our strong disapproval of the recent and continuing protests” and derided “relentless propaganda” from locals and environmentalists opposed to fracking for shale gas. On the grounds of energy prices and energy security, they said the technology should be accepted, and they believed it would not “unduly damage our environment.”
The letter said: “We deplore the abuse suffered by employees of the drilling company, and the police, extended trespass, and the establishment of a semi-permanent ‘protest camp’ on hitherto beautiful road verges; actions which add up to an abuse of the undoubted right to peaceful protest.” It also complained the village had suffered “unfair abuse of our parish council, politicisation of the village fête, unsightly banners and, above all, spreading of unwarranted fear.”
Rodney Jago, a retired Balcombe resident and one of the organisers of the letter, said it was time for the protesters to move on from their roadside camp outside the drilling entrance. “It seriously delays people getting to work, and the policing costs are quite ridiculous. Every time a lorry tries to make a delivery, the people come out with their drums.”