Police prepare for a thousand extra protesters at Balcombe

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Officers policing the protests at the Cuadrilla exploratory drilling site at Balcombe are preparing for an influx of up to a thousand extra protesters this weekend (August 17/18).

A climate camp planned to take place in Nottinghamshire is expected to be relocated to Balcombe on Friday and police are anticipating increased protest activity over the next few days.

Superintendent Lawrence Hobbs has asked organisers to make contact with police and partner agencies in order that their stay at Balcombe can be safely managed.

He said: “We have been contacted by one organiser and this is important as there are many aspects that need to be considered, not least arrangements for fresh water and sanitary arrangements at their chosen camp site.

“However, it is not clear if all of the protesters are currently represented and it is essential that wherever they may be planning to camp, there is easy and unobstructed access to get to anyone who may be in need of the emergency services.

“We are acutely aware of the impact that this is having on the residents of Balcombe and back their call to protesters not to engage in any criminal activity in the pursuit of their aims. Indeed, our engagement with Balcombe people who are protesting at the site and the vast majority of those who have travelled from further afield has been mutually rewarding and we have been able to facilitate their right to assemble and protest.

“This is enabling us to keep disruption to the local community to a minimum possible level, while maintaining the difficult balance of meeting the rights and wishes of all those involved.

“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.”

Sussex Police has confirmed that mutual aid is now being used widely to support the operation, which has now been running for three weeks.

Supt Hobbs continued: “We have always been aware that this was going to be 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 like to recognise the valuable support of our strategic partners, including Mid Sussex District Council and West Sussex County Council.

“I would stress, however, that while this has put a strain on the Force, it will not affect day-to-day policing and especially, our response to emergency 999 calls.

“The cost of the operation is not only being borne by Sussex Police, but by many partner agencies and other organisations who are having to plough additional resources and money into dealing with it.”