Balcombe – a week of protests


By Anders Lorenzen

It’s exactly a week ago since what many media outlets have dubbed ‘The Battle of Balcombe’ commenced and also a week ago since we first covered the anti fracking protest with our live blog.


So a week down the line what has happened, what will happen the following week and what have we learned? Here is a timeline of events:


19 of July: UK Chancellor George Osborne unveils tax breaks for shale gas operations by 50% reducing the tax shale gas companies will pay from 62% to 30%, he is doing so in the aim it will kickstart the shale gas industry in the UK.


23rd of July: Announcement that Cuadrilla will move equipment into the Balcombe site and drill for oil.


24th of July: The Environment Agency grants Cuadrilla a waste and mining permit paving the way for them to continue their operations in Balcombe and start drilling.


25th of July: Anti fracking group Frack Off announces on Twitter its arrival at the Balcombe site and a little later declares that they have halted Cuadrilla operations and stopped a truck from entering site. Camp are set up and more people arriving at site as well as some reporters. Gradually throughout the day media coverage accelerates and at the end of the day the majority of the British mainstream news have covered Balcombe events. On Newsnight that evening the Conservative MP for North Somerset Jacob Rees-Mogg labelled the protesters hooligans and called the protest unlawful and also found time for an attack on windfarms saying that they don’t work and are a blight on the landscape.


26th of July: The family friendly atmosphere that had dominated the first day ends abruptly when the Police move in heavy handed and arrests the protesters that had blocked the way and clears the way for Cuadrilla trucks to move in and out of the gate. Despite of this the protests continues but behind Police lines.


27th of July: Of the 16 people arrested on Friday, the police have charged 12 of them, amongst them two teenage boys aged 15 and 17 respectively. They have all been charged under Section 241 of the Trade Union Labour Relations Act for attempting to stop drivers and other workers from accessing the site.


29th of July: Seven people arrested at protests.


31st of July: Two protesters glued themselves to the gate, one of whom is Natalie Hynde, daughter of Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde – both were arrested. Lord Howell, the father of George Osborne’s wife caused outrage when he in the House of Lords said that fracking can take place in the desolate north east but not in the south. He later apologised and said he got it wrong that he of course meant the north west and not the north east.

1st of August: In a second day of civil disobedience, protesters brought and old vintage fire engine to the site and parked it outside the gate blocking exits and entries into site. Six protesters attached themselves to the fire engine, Police towed away engine with two activists still locked inside. A total of 25 have been arrested since protests began just over a week ago.


Conclusion: It can be summed up in very few words – the more arrests taking place the larger the protests seem to grow with reports that camp is growing day on day. Busses from other part of the UK are now also transporting new protesters to Balcombe site with busses now departing from both Brighton and Bristol as well as an influx of activists from London due to it’s good train connections. The green party leader Natalie Bennett visited the camp during the week, as did campaigner Bianca Jagger, the ex-wife of Rolling Stone Mick Jagger. All while media coverage didn’t show signs of dying down with regular coverage in mainstream media.

Related news:

Editorial: Is Osborne inadvertently re-energising the UK’s environmental movement?
Live blog: Cuadrilla starts Balcombe operations

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