Drilling at Cuadrilla’s controversial well site in Balcombe will be suspended this weekend amid security concerns.
The drill site, approximately the size of a football pitch, has been encircled with new 3.5m fencing topped with razor wire.
A spokesperson for the energy firm said: “After taking advice from Sussex Police, Cuadrilla is scaling back operations ahead of this weekend’s No Dash For Gas event.
“During this time, our main concern is the safety of our staff, Balcombe’s residents and the protesters following threats of direct action against the exploration site.
“We will resume full operations as soon as it is safe to do so.”
A climate camp planned to take place in Nottinghamshire is expected to be relocated to Balcombe today (August 16) and police are anticipating increased protest activity over the next few days.
“We will continue to facilitate peaceful protest, but newcomers to the site should be aware that if they commit criminal offences then we will collect the evidence and they will be arrested,” said Superintendent Lawrence Hobbs.
His warning follows the threat of ‘civil disobedience’ by campaign group No Dash For Gas which is starting a six day action camp in Balcombe today.
Balcombe parish council has stated the event is ‘not wanted’ in an open letter on its website.
Chairwoman Alison Stevenson wrote: “Balcombe strongly opposes any actions which may be taken which involve civil trespass and/or illegal acts.
“If the No Dash for Gas group is coming here in the full knowledge that it intends to break the law then it should stay away.”
A spokesperson for the campaign group said they had no plans for violence or lawbreaking, but that arrests could occur as a result of planned civil disobedience.
Yesterday, Cuadrilla staff at the drill site likened the quieter atmosphere outside to a calm before the storm, and admitted the last 17 days of continuous protest had been ‘intimidating’.
They reiterated the fact that no hydraulic fracturing or fracking is occurring in Balcombe, and that they are exploring for oil not gas.
Between 20 and 30 people work at the drill site, plus numerous private security personnel, charged with keeping the protesters out.
By Theo Cronin