Tense stand-off as anti-fracking protesters march to drilling site

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More than 1,000 protesters have staged a noisy march to the exploratory drilling site at the centre of anti-fracking protests in the heart of the West Sussex countryside.

Activists from across 
the country banged drums, chanted anti-fracking messages and held aloft banners on the outskirts of Balcombe, West Sussex.

There was a tense stand-off between protesters and a battery of police from forces across the UK who had formed a ring of steel around the Cuadrilla drilling site entrance.

Men, women and children chanted “This is what democracy looks like” and “There are many many more of us than you” as they marched along the road while a Sussex Police helicopter hovered overhead.

Cuadrilla, which has been conducting exploratory oil drilling near Balcombe, temporarily suspended its operation amid fears of unrest during the six-day Reclaim the Power camp, which began on Friday. Although Cuadrilla is not conducting fracking near Balcombe, and would need to apply for permission, protesters fear the energy firm will go on to do so.

Lord Browne, Cuadrilla’s chairman and the former chief executive of BP, said the controversial extraction method should be pursued if it can be done safely. He said as much domestic resource should be explored as possible, saying it was more environmentally friendly than importing gas.