THE COST of policing so far at the Balcombe Cuadrilla site has amounted to nearly three-quarters of a million pounds.
Sussex Police are gearing up to meet the extra demand of policing the Balcombe oil-drilling protests with the arrival Climate Camp protesters,
Figures released for policing up until Thursday (August 15) show an estimated total cost of £729,196.
This breaks down to £65,867 on mutual aid from other forces, £20,940 on travel and subsistence, £4,000 on supplies and services, £79,853 on ordinary overtime, £425,745 on rest day working and salary costs of £132,791 of those directly working on the operation.
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, has also revealed that the Force will now seek help from central Government in meeting the growing bill.
“Local taxpayers have a right to know the cost of this policing operation,” she said.
“While Sussex Police continue to facilitate peaceful protest at the site in an appropriate and proportionate manner, the recent involvement of national groups suggests the demonstrations will continue long term. This is leading to increased demand on police resources and is placing pressure on the police budget at a time when we are being asked to find significant savings.
“I have spoken to the Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice, Damian Green, to say that I will be applying to the Home Office for funding to meet the additional costs of policing this protest.
“I am determined that this will not affect policing across the rest of Sussex and that the Chief Constable will have all the resources necessary to continue to keep Sussex safe.”
Superintendent Lawrence Hobbs said that the Force has asked for mutual aid on three occasions over the last three weeks, but that requirement has now been extended and officers from ten other forces have joined Sussex colleagues in Balcombe.
“We have always been aware that this was going to be a long-running policing commitment and it is not possible for one force alone to meet the physical resourcing commitment required over an extended period of time. We are now being supported in a mutual aid operation by colleagues from other UK police forces and I should also like to recognise the valuable support of our strategic partners, including Mid Sussex District Council and West Sussex County Council and our emergency service colleagues.”
The first Climate Camp occupants arrived in a field about a mile from the site yesterday evening (Thursday August 15).
Supt Hobbs continued: “We had been expecting an influx of further protestors setting up a camp, but organisers did not engage with us, so we didn’t know the time or location of where they would set up.
“Late last evening a campsite with over 100 people was very quickly established on farm land between Cuckfield and Balcombe. It wasn’t possible to prevent this campsite being established and it wasn’t with the permission of the landowner. Currently, that is a matter of civil trespass and we are in touch with the landowner to see what action, if any, they wish to take.
“We echo the wish of the local community that the protest should continue peacefully and that those travelling to the area to commit criminal offences are not welcome. We have a range of contingencies available and if people do break the law we will collate the evidence and they will be dealt with.
“Policing protests like this is not easy. It’s a delicate and difficult balancing act. Sussex Police must facilitate protestors who wish to peacefully protest against the drilling operation. We must also ensure that Cuadrilla can use the site for lawful purposes and for its employees to access the site without harassment or intimidation. We are required to uphold the law, maintain the peace and ensure public safety.
“A decision has been made by Cuadrilla to suspend drilling operations this weekend. The company has its own security team, but has considered the risks and has made its own decision with regard to the potential risks posed by the large number of protesters expected over the weekend. Given the health and safety risks associated with it being an industrial site if access is gained by trespassers, we believe their decision to be a wise one.”
Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood joined the protesters today (Friday August 16), calling for a public debate on fracking.