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Drilling Set To Resume At Balcombe As Protesters Quit Site

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Ryan Kisiel, Daily Mail

Drilling is expected to resume within days at a potential fracking site after police gained the upper-hand over a dwindling numbers of protesters.

Engineers were carrying out maintenance yesterday in preparation for exploratory drilling for shale gas on the outskirts of Balcombe, West Sussex.

Police made a series of targeted arrests around the camps after reviewing CCTV evidence of Monday’s violent protests. More than eight riot-trained policeman jumped out of a minibus before surrounding one female suspect and quickly driving her away for allegedly earlier assaulting an officer.

Support: Police in body armour assist a tanker that is heading for the test drill site operated by British energy firm Cuadrilla Resources in Balcombe

Support: Police in body armour assist a tanker that is heading for the test drill site operated by British energy firm Cuadrilla Resources in Balcombe

Altogether, three people were arrested yesterday, two for offences that happened during Monday’s protests and one for a public disorder offence while a lorry was entering the site.

Many of the activists had already decided to leave – with some saying they would focus on other sites that currently have applications for drilling being considered.

Hundreds of environmental campaigners had been buoyed by Sussex Police’s advice to energy company Cuadrilla last week that it could not secure the area from incursions.

Under watch: The number of fracking protesters has now halved after the police intervention

Under watch: The number of fracking protesters has now halved after the police intervention

As a result, the company decided to temporarily ‘scale down’ work to see how much potential energy was buried deep under the ground. This led to accusations the police had given into mob rule and were not enforcing the rule of law.

But after a day of action where the protesters were cleared away from the main gate, lorries and workers were yesterday escorted safely by police onto the site.

Following the arrest of 29 people – including Green MP Caroline Lucas – campaigner numbers have fallen to a third of the 1,200 present during the weekend. The ‘Reclaim the Power’ camp that was set up two miles away in a farmer’s field was also being dismantled yesterday and due to be completely cleared by tonight. 

Sources say Cuadrilla executives now believe they can contain the site with the current police presence and private security patrolling the perimeter. Drilling, which was suspended last week, is provisionally planned to resume by the end of the week.

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