16/08/2013

Fracking Firm To Scale Back Operations

The energy firm behind controversial fracking works at a site in West Sussex has said it is to scale back its operations.

According to the BBC, the company, Cuadrilla, said it made the decision following police advice.

The announcement comes as more than 1,000 protestors are expected to descend on the site this weekend in opposition to the plans.

Cuadrilla started drilling at a site near the village of Balcombe two weeks ago, but exploration operations will now be halted. It is understood the number of workers on site has been reduced and large reinforced fences are being erected.

In a statement, the company said: "After taking advice from Sussex Police, Cuadrilla is scaling back operations ahead of this weekend's No Dash For Gas event.

"During this time, our main concern is the safety of our staff, Balcombe's residents and the protesters following threats of direct action against the exploration site.

"We will resume full operations as soon as it is safe to do so."

The firm is drilling a 3,000ft (900m) vertical well and a 2,500ft (750m) horizontal bore but said fresh permission would be needed before fracking for shale gas could begin.

For the past three weeks, environmental campaigners have camped outside the site with around 40 people being arrested. This weekend, Sussex Police said they believe more people will arrive for a six-day camp organised by the No Dash For Gas group.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Jamie Kelsey Fry, from No Dash For Gas, said the group would be doing "everything they can to make the country think twice" about the controversial process of fracking.

He added: "It was exactly these kinds of actions hundreds of years ago that gave women the vote with the Suffragettes. It's absolutely no different.

"This is not fun. People aren't going down there for fun. It's not fun to see the heavy policing that I predict will be happening over this weekend."

He said the protesters would be risking "their liberty and personal harm" to highlight awareness of the government's "disastrous choice" to pursue fracking.

Superintendent Lawrence Hobbs, of Sussex Police, said: "We are acutely aware of the impact that this is having on the residents of Balcombe and back their call to protesters not to engage in any criminal activity in the pursuit of their aims.

"We will continue to facilitate peaceful protest but newcomers to the site should be aware that if they commit criminal offences then we will collect the evidence and they will be arrested."

(JP/CD)

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