B2036 Balcombe ‘anti-fracking’ protest verges to be repossessed

Tents opposite the gate to the Caudrilla at Balcombe. Pic Steve Robards

Tents opposite the gate to the Caudrilla at Balcombe. Pic Steve Robards

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A High Court judge has backed West Sussex County Council’s bid to repossess the B2036 grass verges opposite energy firm Cuadrilla’s drilling site in Balcombe.

In a statement issued today (Monday), the county council said: “West Sussex County Council is very pleased that a High Court Judge has this afternoon granted its application for a possession order for verges next to the B2036 at Balcombe.

The gate to the Caudrilla at Balcombe. Pic Steve Robards

The gate to the Caudrilla at Balcombe. Pic Steve Robards

“An early decision will now be made about enforcing the order. This may mean some disruption for people using the B2036, and we would urge people to listen out for traffic bulletins and also check the County Council’s twitter site @WSCCNews

“We would remind people that this action is only being taken in the interests of safety for all road users, including the demonstrators.”

At the end of the summer the county council delivered letters to the protesters appealing to them to move because of the dangers it perceived to them camping so close to a B road.

Many protesters left in the weeks immediately after Cuadrilla vacated the site when its planning permission expired on September 28. Others drifted away slowly but a hardcore have remained with a dozen or more tents plus a wooden building still situated close to the northbound carriageway.

Large electronic signs which warn “PEDESTRIANS IN CARRIAGEWAY” are still in place either end of the former protest site, close to Cuadrilla’s entrance gate at one end and Balcombe itself at the other.

The county said in its statement today: “The B2036 is an unlit road with a 60mph limit. Vehicle speeds have been increasing since the main protest camp ended, and, with darker nights and the change in weather, the dangers to safety have increased.

“The County Council has provided a designated area where people can gather should they want to continue their protest, but camping will not be permitted.

“This is designed to strike a careful balance between maintaining road safety and people’s right to demonstrate peacefully.

“We will, following comments by the judge, look at the suitability and siting of this area to see if it can be improved.

“We would urge people who are still camping on the verges to respect the court decision, and leave the roadside and remove their possessions and any structures they have erected.”