Police rebut Balcombe drilling accusations

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Sussex Police have dismissed claims that they have allowed protesters to bring oil drilling at Balcombe to a halt.

They have issued a statement as up to 1,000 extra people have gathered for a climate camp near the site at this weekend.

Superintendent Lawrence Hobbs said: “Right from the outset, we have been absolutely clear that our priority in this operation is safety - for the general public, for protesters, for Cuadrilla employees and for own officers and staff.

“Over the last three weeks our approach has been quite clear in that we will not tolerate any criminal behaviour and by Friday there had been 45 arrests in connection with the protests, with 33 people being charged with a range of offences.

“This morning (Saturday August 17) we arrested a man in connection with threats made to a local landowner who asked a group encamped on land very close to the drilling site to leave.

“I should like to make it absolutely clear that while we are in full support of Cuadrilla’s decision to scale back their activities during this period, it was their decision, which took into account Sussex Police’s assessment of the likely impact of the extra protesters.

“For the last three weeks we have worked with all sides in a difficult balancing act to enable them all to meet their peaceful and lawful objectives, whether they be day-to-day commercial activities or protest.

“Cuadrilla’s decision is a sensible one and we anticipate that in the next few days they will be in a position to resume their full operation and we will continue to police the situation fairly to ensure the safety of everyone involved.”

A 23-year-old man, arrested on suspicion of a Section 4 public order offence was in custody today (Saturday August 17).