A minister has been accused of not standing up for his constituents over the threat of fracking in rural Sussex.

Cabinet Secretary Francis Maude represents Balcombe, a potential site for hydraulic fracturing, but while neighbouring MPs voice environmental fears, the Conservative MP for Horsham has been accused of ignoring residents’ concerns and focusing on the protest’s “ugly scenes”.

Helen Savage, of Balcombe, said: “Why is our MP not shouting more loudly about this? He tells us he ‘cannot speak up in Parliament’, but his statements are ill-informed and betray a complete lack of understanding of his constituents’ wishes in Balcombe.”

She added: “This is middle England saying ‘no’. Normal people who quite happily have not been politically active before, have woken up and realised it is time to stand up to protect their community. This is grass roots democracy saying no.”

Mr Maude said he supported peaceful protest but said the “vehemence of the protests are a little premature”.


He said: “As my e-mail inbox reveals, the behaviour of those protesters who travelled from miles away has disappointed and upset many local residents, and stretched the police and their resources.

“Local people were going about a very determined but peaceful protest which was shouldered aside by the ugly scenes that we all saw in the papers and on TV.”

He added: “This is a sensitive and complex issue, with major local and national implications.

“I will continue to do all I can to ensure that residents’ views are heard.”

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “Some of the UK’s leading climate scientists have warned that the widespread use of shale gas is quite simply incompatible with the Government’s international commitments to keep global warming below two degrees.

“The Government is being extraordinarily short-sighted, and not just because it might lose votes in its traditional heartlands.”

Norman Baker, Lib Dem MP for Lewes, said: “Any fracking undertaken must be safe and the public must be confident that it is safe.

“I am not convinced, at this stage, that has been achieved.”

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