10/09/2013

Anti-Fracking Protestors To Be Evicted

West Sussex County Council has confirmed it is to take action against anti-fracking protesters in Balcombe.

The protesters were warned to leave their camp in Balcombe by 9am today (10 September) or face eviction.

After that time, the local authority said it would begin to remove people, roadside tents, canopies and caravans on the B2036 London Road.

They have been camped on site for the past two months.

The area is close to the site where energy company Cuadrilla is currently completing exploratory drilling work.

The Council, as the Highways Authority, is taking the action due to increased concerns for the safety of all road users.

Notices were served on Monday and those on the land were given 24 hours to move. If this didn't happen, it will be followed by court action to seek possession of Council owned verges and an injunction preventing people from returning.

In a statement, the county council said the action was being taken to protect all road users, and was not about removing the right to peaceful protest.

A spokesperson added: "This is a very busy road with a 60 mph limit, and unlit at night. There are increased safety concerns that as a responsible highways authority we must address.

"Our action is designed to protect all road users including the people on the verges and passing motorists. It is purely and simply about road safety, and also keeping the public highway open.

"There have been a number of incidents in the road last week that have given rise to new concerns. The incident during which a man climbed a tripod in the middle of the road, has shown the sort of dangers posed to motorists and people on the verges. Cars had to take avoiding action, and it delayed 60 children getting to school.

"We have been monitoring the area closely. It is clear people are regularly straying on to the road and we also need to re-establish visibility lines for accesses to a nearby farm and business unit.

"Local schools have started a new term and as a result there is likely to more traffic using this section of road.

"There has also been rain and that brings with it the risks of vehicles skidding if they are distracted by activity in the road or on the verges."

They added that the local authority and police were establishing "a defined area where peaceful protest will be facilitated."

Last Monday it was announced that Cuadrilla has withdrawn an application for an extension to its planning permission for exploratory drilling at Balcombe, but added that a new planning application for the site will be lodged shortly.

(JP/CD)

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