Balcombe survey claims massive opposition to fracking

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A door-to-door survey claims that 85 per cent of households in Balcombe are against fracking, with nine per cent unsure and six per cent pro-fracking.

The survey was done by the ‘Lock the Gate’ campaign and adds to one done by Balcombe Parish Council to which 33 per cent responded with 82 per cent against fracking.

On Saturday the Lock the Gate campaigners say between 150 and 200 people walked from Balcombe recreation ground to the protest site outside the Cuadrilla compound where test drilling for oil began on Friday.

The fracking technique is not being used at the moment, according to Cuadrilla whose vehicles and staff entering the site have been held up by protesters.

The group of villagers sang a version of Jerusalem as they walked and again with the protesters when they reached the site.

In a letter, Balcombe resident and lead campaigner Helen Savage said: “Cuadrilla have NO social license to be here. This is middle England saying NO, normal people who (quite happily) have not been politically active before, have woken up and realised it is time to stand up to protect their community, this is grass roots democracy saying NO.”

Sign at junction of Newlands, in Balcombe

Sign at junction of Newlands, in Balcombe

Helen said: “The government are making it too easy for fracking to take place, having originally said we will have tighter controls and regulations than in the US, now we find that the government are using recent bills to enable them to rush this through the planning process without due consideration to communities involved.

“Not only this, but now, possibly because the process is taking a long time here in Balcombe, George Osborne is saying permits will be able to go through in as little time as two weeks.”

She added: “We have tried all the official channels and so far they are just not listening enough. We are happy that protestors from outside care enough to come and stand up against this process. I have been down there nearly every day and met genuine, concerned and informed people from: Forest Row, Hayward’s Heath, Cuckfield, Danehill, Chichester, Brighton, Lewes and so on. They have every right to be there, Ardingly reservoir is one of only four reservoirs that serves the whole of the South East. This area has been deemed to be an area of ‘water stress’ in the future, we cannot afford to put it at risk. People have an absolute right to come here from further afield, they drink the same water. (Remember Fracking not only risks polluting the water supply but uses 20 million litres of water per well).

“For those that come from Lancashire, Somerset and the Solent I salute you, you are or are about to experience the same problems that we are.

Balcombe resident John Butcher said: “It was great to see so many local villagers at the drilling site today (3rd August), most of whom work during Monday to Friday.

“150 to 200 walked down to the site, uniting with others from outside the local area who are concerned about the health risks of this exploratory drilling stage and potential fracking.

“Fracking has such a poor safety and environmental impact record worldwide and is banned in many countries. The government should be supporting economic growth and energy security through renewable sources.”

Of the survey done of Balcombe residents’ views, Katy Dunne, who lives in the village, said: “We spoke to every household in the village and the overwhelming majority of people who live in Balcombe don’t want fracking. We’ve done petitions, over 800 of us responded to the Environment Agency’s consultation, the Parish Council has come out against and now we can say with confidence that the residents don’t want it.

“This industry is being forced upon us. We’ve been backed into a corner and we now feel we have no option but to take matters into own own hands and protect our village. We have lost faith in national and local democracy and are putting our efforts into the ongoing protests at the site.”

Balcombe resident Norman Hawkins wrote: “As a Balcombe resident of nearly 40 years, I have obviously been following proceedings on the fracking situation with much interest. Whilst I understand the concerns of those residents who think fracking, if it happens is a good and necessary thing, I would just mention one or two facts.

“By the way, I do understand the need for energy based on the inability of successive governments to plan far enough ahead. I also understand from the majority of conversations I’ve had, that people are very largely against fracking.

“The majority however are also not keen to be seen in the same confrontational environment as portrayed by ‘Swampy’ and with police struggling to arrest people.

“Although Fracking has yet to take place, if at all, it is undisputed that it uses vast quantities of water and there is also a risk of contamination to water supplies. These concerns are also shared by the water supply companies, who have recently put these points to the government.

“At Balcombe we are in an area which suffers with a lack of water availability in any prolonged hot summer. The Battle of Balcombe is now well established, but it must be understood that water shortages and contamination scenarios stretch into all of Mid Sussex and far beyond. And is not water more important than gas and oil?”

In other letters, residents have expressed their disquiet about the protesters and the protest camp beside the B2039 which is requiring a large police presence.

In one letter, Balcombe resident Sarah Lamaletie put the other side of the debate and accused the media of bias.

She says: “Why is your reporting so one sided? There are plenty of people who have gone on record both on the BBC site and others (try the Mid-Sussex Times) stating that there are people in Balcombe who are NOT supportive of the protesters.

“As has been put on record on a number of occasions (although you have seen fit to ignore this) the much quoted “82 per cent of residents” actually should read the “82% of the 33% of residents who responded to the questionnaire”. That means the 66% (those who didn’t respond) plus the 18% of those that did but who are in favour / with no firm opinion are being out shouted by the 26% of villages who are anti-fracking and are backed up but a large collection of professional protesters (most of whom clearly haven’t held a job recently and therefore have either the private money or the benefit cheques to allow them spend all day making a pain of themselves).

“As a Balcombe resident since 1982 (whose family moved here in 1949) I am absolutely sick to death of the persistent voice of a very small number of locals - one of whose husband has just made the village grapevine buzz for hitting someone at the parish council meeting because they had the temerity not to agree with his anti-fracking view (I stress I cannot verify this but it gives an indication as to local opinion of the protesters) being treated as if they spoke for all of us. They do NOT.

“For myself, my family and quite a large circle of my village acquaintances the protest site is a blot on the landscape who are giving the village a bad name, littering the local landscape with human excrement etc, taking up valuable resources (police et al) which is likely to result in raised council tax bills and doing little more than scare-mongering.

“Could you PLEASE get a little balance. Mr Maude I am copying you in the hope that you will NOT assume all those who voted for you are a bunch of NIMBYs who are happy to use the resources but only if the extraction of them inconvenience someone else.”