Council ‘regrets’ High Court’s anti-fracking decision

Announcement made to anti fracking protesters by police. Pic Steve Robards
Announcement made to anti fracking protesters by police. Pic Steve Robards

West Sussex County Council (WSCC) says it ‘very much regrets’ the High Court’s decision to adjourn the case to remove anti-fracking protesters from highway verges in Balcombe until October 8.

The camp outside energy firm Cuadrilla’s site in London Road was given notice of legal action on Friday (September 13).

At the High Court in London today (Monday September 16) the case was adjourned until next month.

“We very much regret the adjournment of the case, but accept the court’s decision,” said a spokesman for WSCC.

“The county council reiterates that the reason for taking this action was to maintain road safety on a busy rural road, unlit at night with a 60 mph limit.

“The roadside encampment is very close to the edge of the grass verges, and there have been numerous encroachments into the public highway. In our opinion it is not safe. We also have a duty to keep the highway open for all traffic.”

He continued: “The county council now respectfully requests that the protestors behave responsibly and do not cause a safety hazard on the road or disrupt the highway.

“The court has been given assurances on behalf of the protestors that their action will cease on the expiry of the planning permission on 28 September. We expect those assurances to be fulfilled.”

The spokesman added: “Today’s ruling by the Judge does not exclude the Council returning to court before October 8 if safety issues on the B2036 escalate.

“There have been some reports that costs were awarded against the County Council. This is not the case. The Judge ruled that the issue of costs should be reserved which means that a decision has been postponed to a future hearing.”

Cuadrilla are bound by the terms of its planning permission to stop exploratory drilling on September 28.

A spokesperson for the No Fracking in Balcombe Society said: “We are so happy that we can now stay to finish our protest, and then leave in a peaceful way once Cuadrilla have left.

“This will give us time to clear and clean up, and to rethink and regroup, for future action against oil and gas drilling - in Balcombe and elsewhere in the country where new drilling sites are in the offing.”