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Police Cave In To Mob Rule Over Fracking

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Chris Greenwood and Nick McDermott, Daily Mail

Police were accused of bowing to the mob last night as campaigners brought drilling at a potential fracking site to a halt.

Hardcore activists celebrated as energy bosses announced they would ‘scale back’ operations in Balcombe on the advice of the police. The controversial decision came as senior officers feared an influx of another 1,000 protesters.

They warned the drilling company they could not guarantee the security of the West Sussex site.

Action: Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood joins the anti-fracking protest at the Cuadrilla site in Balcombe, Sussex

Action: Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood joins the anti-fracking protest at the Cuadrilla site in Balcombe, Sussex

Police chiefs have already spent almost £750,000 since demonstrators first appeared last month.

The move provoked outrage from business, industry groups and MPs who said that – regardless of the fracking debate – the police decision set a dangerous precedent for other lawful activities. One industry executive said the move should ‘concern all those who believe in the democratic process and the rule of law’.

Ken Cronin, who represents the fracking industry, said: ‘It is right that we can hold a democratic debate in this country without fear. It is right that people are free to protest in a peaceful fashion.

‘We cannot, however, allow single issue pressure groups to subvert the rule of law and prevent workers from carrying out their lawful operations, as well as having the safety of the company’s staff and Balcombe’s residents compromised.

‘It is not right that the onshore oil and gas industry has to deal with threats of direct action, intimidation and “mass civil disobedience” against our staff and property, which prevent us carrying out our lawful operations.’

Tory MP Mark Reckless said: ‘We need to face down these green and far-Left extremists who want to stop our economy growing. I am sorry that Sussex Police have simply not been up to the mark to do it.

‘We have certainly lost this battle but, regardless of where you stand on fracking, I hope to ensure we win the war against this type of protest movement.’

Stacking up: Police vehicles, including several riot vans, are ready for the climate campStacking up: Police vehicles, including several riot vans, are ready for the climate camp
Preparations: Police guard a lorry waiting to enter the Cuadrilla drilling site in Balcombe, after campaign group No Dash For Gas threatened a weekend of civil disobediencePreparations: Police guard a lorry waiting to enter the Cuadrilla drilling site in Balcombe, after campaign group No Dash For Gas threatened a weekend of civil disobedience

TaxPayers’ Alliance chief executive Matthew Sinclair said: ‘The police are paid to uphold the rule of law and that includes protecting legal exploration for important natural resources from the activist mob trying to shut the operation down.

The Balcombe protest has been gaining momentum since the first activists arrived three weeks ago.

Although there are no immediate plans to use fracking at the site, the controversial technique could be deployed if fuel reserves are found. Fracking involves pumping liquid at high pressure deep underground to split shale rock and release gas for use as fuel.

Until now, police have successfully enabled workers to continue drilling. But fears that hundreds more demonstrators could arrive prompted a rethink. Leaders of the campaign group Occupy, which staged a lengthy illegal camp at St Paul’s Cathedral, called for ‘a huge show of force’. And police fear veterans of the violent Dale Farm traveller camp eviction in 2011 could be among those already at the site.