Fracking protest has huge support from many areas

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We write in response to the distorted portrayal of what is happening in Balcombe in your newspaper. We are hugely grateful to those who have so kindly come to support our cause, from towns and villages around Sussex, and places such as Lancashire and Wales – areas equally under threat of oil and gas drilling. In the face of police tactics and military-style guards of honour for Cuadrilla vehicles, the activists are brave enough to try to block this company.

Balcombe is a very conservative and Conservative-voting village. The majority of residents are against the presence of the oil and gas industry in our village (over 90% in our door-to-every-door survey of the village). But many residents simply do not like people who make a fuss. Those who work for or live in ‘tied’ houses on the Balcombe Estate (who have leased their land to Cuadrilla) are naturally reluctant to comment or act.

We have been at the site protesting, offering donations and support. But most villagers are not keen to take a midsummer holiday in a police cell, risking jobs and forsaking care commitments. Yes, there are some activists at the site who have protested previously on other ecological matters – they have expertise which we don’t. They are completely committed to opposing fracking for gas and oil. They are working with us.

Francis Leader from Dorset, one such seasoned protester, has just washed her hair in our bathroom: ‘There’s been a constant stream of villagers coming down to protest and saying how thankful they are. We have so much food and other supplies brought down by Balcombe people.’

She points out that one of the next targets for fracking will be Portsmouth, not far from her home.

She is right, this is not just a Balcombe or a Sussex issue. Fracking, and the environmental risks of oil and gas exploration, are matters of national and international importance. If the government and the industry are to fulfil their inflated predictions, wells will be drilled densely right across the British Isles. Everyone, everywhere should wake up and smell the fumes from the gas and oil.

Kathryn McWhirter

Balcombe resident and member of NoFiBS (No Fracking in Balcombe Society)