Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion was arrested at a demonstration against the activities of the hydrocarbons exploration company Cuadrilla Resources in the Sussex village of Balcombe on Monday 19 August 2013, along with her son and a number of other protestors. Ms Lucas has subsequently been bailed and has yet to learn weather she will face criminal charges. The number of protestors at the site has been growing steadily since operations began at the site on 25 July, with over a thousand people reportedly present at the weekend. The protestors are concerned that the company may use hydraulic fracturing at the site, a technology which has been associated with a range of environmental problems, ranging from water pollution to small Earthquakes, and which Cuadrilla has become strongly associated with in the eyes of the British public after it was forced to suspend operations at at a site in Lancashire following to seismic activity.
Green Party MP being led away by police in Balcombe on Monday 19 August 2013. Rex Features.
Caudrilla have stated that the operation will involve the drilling of a 914 m well and 762 m horizontal borehole, and will not involve any fracking, which would require additional permission from West Sussex County Council. They have also stated that they are following all regulations put in place by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and West Sussex County Council.
However protestors have expressed doubts that the group would be drilling exploratory wells without the intention of further operations, and have suggested that the current legal structure around such drilling operations favors wealthy companies over local communities. Many have also complained that the policing operation was disproportionate, and that they are a symptom of the state intervening to protect a 'wealthy few' against a local community standing up for itself.
Support for the protest has grown rapidly, both in Sussex and across the UK, following a string of heavy handed actions by Sussex Police and a refusal to meet with from government ministers and local Conservative Party MP Francis Maude, indeed several senior figures within the party have openly expressed support for the drilling operation and opposition to the protest, taking part in what would usually be considered the Conservative Party's heartland, claiming that hydraulic fractioning is vital to the UK's future fuel economy, but refusing to enter into debate on the matter or discuss possible alternatives.
This has led to a number of protests at other sites, with protestors occupying the UK headquarters of Caudrilla at Lichfield in Staffordshire and those of public relations company Bell Pottinger, who have been representing Caudrilla, in central London.
See also Anti-fracking protestors arrested at Sussex demo, The British Geological Survey reports on Shale Gasses in the Bowland-Hodder Unit, Geological Society of London to host a public meeting on Shale Gas extraction, Report recommends Fracking should be allowed to continue in the UK and Fracking linked to earthquakes in Lancashire, northeast England.
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