Published on 19 Aug 2013

MP arrested in anti-fracking protests as tensions rise

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Green Party MP Caroline Lucas (pictured above) is arrested after anti-fracking campaigners staged a series of protests in Balcombe, West Sussex on Monday.

Ms Lucas was among at least 25 people who were arrested, after Sussex police served a notice under section 14 of the Public Order Act.

Activists are currently taking part in a six-day Reclaim The Power action camp in Balcombe, after Cuadrilla began carrying out exploratory oil drilling.

The MP had been sitting with a crowd of protesters outside when she was marched away by officers and put into a waiting police van.

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Sussex Police said protesters had been arrested as officers moved in to clear a large group of people in front of an emergency access to the site.

Officers spent more than hour removing the final seven protesters, whose arms were connected to each other through plastic tubing, from outside the gate (pictured below).

Each one was carried away by several officers to claps and cheers from the crowd.

Over a megaphone, a senior officer read the public order notice, asking protesters to move back so as not to cause an obstruction to Kemp Farm Industrial Park, which is not connected to Cuadrilla or the drilling site.

He said:  “A protest or camp across the entrance or on the B2036 road to the south of the Cuadrilla site will not be accepted.

“This will allow a designated emergency services route to the site from the south to be maintained, allowing emergency services to enter if required. It will also allow the access and egress of staff without undue intimidation or deterrence.”

The arrests came as police tried to move those who had set up outside the entrance to the designated protest area nearby.

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Elsewhere another group stormed into Cuadrilla’s headquarters of energy company while others superglued themselves to a PR company used by the firm.

In a statement, Cuadrilla said: “Protesters broke into our Lichfield office, harassed our staff and chained themselves to filing cabinets.

“The police are on site dealing with this. We condemn all illegal direct actions against our people and operations.”

The protest group claims it has obtained a secret recording of a senior public relations officer at the firm admitting that the effect fracking will have on people’s energy bills will be “basically insignificant” and said it was playing the recording on a loudspeaker.

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A group of around 20 protesters also demonstrated outside the constituency office of Balcombe MP and Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude.

Protesters also chain themselves to a disabled man’s wheelchair at the Balcombe site (pictured above).

In addition to protests against Cuadrilla, protesters targeted the home of former energy secretary Lord Howell, who caused a furore when he said fracking should take place in “desolate” areas of the north.

Activists said they had staged a demonstration outside the home of Lord Howell, erecting an estate agent-style “For Shale” sign and a banner which read “Not in your back yard, Lord Howell? Frack off!”

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Opponents of fracking, in which water and chemicals are pumped into the ground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release gas, fear it could harm water resources, cause small earthquakes and that development of the sites will cause noise and traffic.

Environmental campaigners also warn a new “dash for gas” will undermine efforts to tackle climate change and say the focus for energy development should be on low carbon power such as renewables.

But the Government has thrown its weight behind shale gas, claiming it will create tens of thousands of jobs, increase the UK’s energy security and could bring down energy prices – a claim disputed by environmentalists and some experts.

Follow Siobhan Kennedy on Twitter @siobhankennedy4

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