Fracking has become a buzz word in many communities up and down the country, nowhere more so than in Balcombe in Mid Sussex.
The High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a potential honeypot for energy exploration barons, who have the fracking process poised at their fingertips with Cuadrilla Resources leading the way.
During 2013 the village of Balcombe saw hundreds of protesters and police clash outside Cuadrilla’s exploration site at Lower Stumble off the B2036, on the tree and hedgerow lined road to Cuckfield.
From July to September protesters poured into a rapidly organised protest encampment of temporary toilet blocks, cooking facilities, tents of every size and shape and workshops that grew in size alongside the road, covering both verges as daily traffic ploughed through the middle.
Cuadrilla’s juggenauts and flatbed lorries continues to deliver construction materials, temporary staff cabins, containers of chemicals and rigging equipment to its site on Balcombe Estate land, while workers arrived and left everyday.
And likewise, on almost every occasions, they were the targets of flash mobbing by protesters bent on drawing the world’s attention to their case against the highly controversial extraction process that uses hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking.
No fracking was used at Balcombe this summer but that was no deterrent to the fervour of environmentalists and green energy supporters, as well as many Balcombe residents themselves, all of whom at times stood in the way of lorries, handcuffed themselves to vehicles and gates and lay down in the road, holding up traffic, often for hours at a time.
Hundreds more protesters came for short rallies and for several marches from Balcombe Station to Lower Stumble where they sang the ‘fracking protest song’ to the tune of ‘Jerusalem’.
On September 28, as per its planning permission, Cuadrilla had gone from the site, as had the world’s media, although it took several weeks more for many of the protesters to follow suit, and much more time for West Sussex County Council to succeed with a High Court order allowing it to remove the remaining hangers-on.
The county council now has the power to prevent any further encampment, although a designated area has been installed where protesters will be allowed to gather if and when Cuadrilla returns to finish its flow testing of the oil it has found underground.
The photographs in this slideshow are just some of the many taken by Mid Sussex Times photographer Steve Robards at various stages of the widely followed activities.
They attempt to sumerise the colourful, and at times difficult, scenes that were this year’s summer of discontent outside Cuadrilla’s Lower Stumble site.