Balcombe protesters begin clearing anti-fracking camp

Balcombe camp Protesters have said they will vacate the camp at Balcombe by 8 October

Anti-fracking protesters have begun dismantling their camp in West Sussex after energy firm Cuadrilla finished test drilling for oil.

Tents, banners and other structures are being cleared from road verges on the outskirts of Balcombe, following two months of demonstrations.

Campaigners say they will vacate the site by 8 October but have pledged to come back if Cuadrilla returns.

The firm removed its drill rig and left the site last week.

Cuadrilla has submitted new plans to carry out "flow tests" to determine the rate of extraction at the well after test-drilling found oil in rock samples.

'Everybody's listening'

Daniel White, 19, of the Balcombe Protection Camp, said protesters were discussing where they would take their campaign next - possibly Manchester or Lancashire.

"We will be doing this worldwide to stop fracking," he said. "This is something that needs to stop.

"We have got everybody out there listening, and the more people who are aware the better."

Balcombe drilling site Cuadrilla removed its equipment from the oil drilling site last week

Another campaigner, Pam Lucas, 65, from London, said: "We're trying to keep this land as green and pleasant as possible.

"This has been a minor victory for us, but we haven't won the war yet."

More than 1,000 activists set up camp at the height of protests in August.

Campaigners fear the test drilling could lead to hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, at the site.

Ewa Jasiewicz from No Dash for Gas, which staged the Reclaim the Power camp, has said further protests are likely if Cuadrilla returns to the site.

Katy Bourne, Sussex police and crime commissioner, is applying for financial help from the Home Office to pay for the cost of policing the protests, estimated to be about £4m.

More than 100 people have been arrested, including former Green Party leader and Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas.

She is due to appear before Crawley magistrates on 9 October charged with one count under the Public Order Act and one of obstructing a highway.

Cuadrilla has said its new application for planning permission does not include a request to carry out fracking but to flow-test the well to see if the oil can be extracted.

The well has been closed off while the company seeks fresh planning permission.

Flow tests would reveal both the volume of oil at the site and the rate at which it could be extracted.

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