Sussex Police applies to Home Office to recover £4m cost of Balcombe anti-fracking protests (From The Argus)
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Sussex Police applies to Home Office to recover £4m cost of Balcombe anti-fracking protests
2:36pm Tuesday 21st January 2014 in News
The policing operation of the anti-fracking protests in West Sussex last summer cost taxpayers £3.985 million.
Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne said the bill placed pressure on the police budget when savings were having to be made.
As she revealed the final sum for the policing operation, Ms Bourne said she has submitted an application to the Home Office to recover the cost.
Anti-fracking activists staged a lengthy protest last summer outside energy firm Cuadrilla's exploratory drilling operation in Balcombe.
Although Cuadrilla did not conduct fracking there, and would need to apply for permission, protesters feared the energy company would go on to do so.
Figures revealed that more than £1.6 million of the policing bill went on mutual aid costs, while accommodation, subsistence and vehicle costs totalled £259,517.
Supplies and services cost £43,507, ordinary officer police overtime stood at £335,519, rest day working at £830,137 and "consequential divisional overtime" at £209,139.
Ms Bourne's office also disclosed that normal police salaries for officers working on the operation totalled £621,860.
She said: "I firmly believe that local taxpayers have a right to know the final cost of this policing operation and it has been a detailed financial process to collate the costs incurred accurately.
"The additional, unforeseen cost of policing this operation has put pressure on the police budget at a time when considerable savings are being delivered in Sussex.
"Last summer Sussex Police were required to provide a policing response to a national issue, which is at the forefront of the Government's energy security policy.
"What happened here in Sussex may determine what will play out across police force areas in the future.
"It is unfair to burden local taxpayers with this significant sum of money and that is why I have applied to the Home Office for funding to meet the cost of the policing operation.
"I look forward to receiving their response in due course."
At the height of the protests, during the Reclaim the Power camp - organised by No Dash For Gas, more than 30 people were arrested, including Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves high pressure liquid being pumped deep underground to split shale rock and release oil or gas supplies.
Opponents of fracking have highlighted concerns about potential water contamination and environmental damage, as well as small-scale earthquakes.
But not everyone in Balcombe has been happy with the village being the national focus of anti-fracking protests.
Sixty villagers last summer put their name to a letter saying that despite the "relentless propaganda", exploratory drilling or properly-regulated exploitation will not "unduly damage" the environment.
They criticised the disruption to the exploratory oil drilling operation. Balcombe continues to be a magnet for anti-fracking protests.
On Sunday, more than 400 protesters gathered at a rally attended by French MEP Jose Bove, a key campaigner from the French anti-fracking lobby.
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