Chris Greenwood and Nick Mcdermott
August 17, 2013
- Activists celebrated as energy bosses announced ‘scale back’ of operation
- Police had warned drilling company they could not guarantee safety of site
- Almost £750,000 has been spent by police since demonstrations started
- Move has provoked outrage with some claiming it set dangerous precedent
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.
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.’