Anti-fracking protesters are celebrating after an oil and gas exploration firm stopped drilling after neighbours complained about the noise.

Work has stopped at the Cuadrilla exploration site in Balcombe after nearby residents complained the noise was rattling their windows and disturbing their sleep.

Jubilant activists claimed the halt was a serious blow to Cuadrilla’s chances of turning the area into a permanent site for fracking.

But officials from the energy firm claimed the delay would only be temporary.

In recent months Balcombe has been at the centre of a national row over the controversial fracking process, where rock is blasted with water to release shale gas.

Planning permission granted to Cuadrilla in 2010 stated noise levels for nearby residents should never exceed 55 decibels between 7.30am and 6.30pm from Monday to Friday.

At all other times the drilling must not exceed 42 decibels.

But at a meeting with the Environment Agency last week, noise experts told Cuadrilla night levels were nearing prohibited levels.

Bosses immediately called a halt to the drilling and workmen are now scrambling to fit “sound baffles”, which will muffle the noise of drilling.

A spokesman for Cuadrilla confirmed work was scheduled to start again “as soon as possible”.

He said: “We’ll have it back up and running as soon as we can. West Sussex County Council has had quite a few complaints so we have been trying to reduce noise.

“But we don’t think the noise is too bad. For instance, when a train goes by it reaches 75 decibels.

“In fact, the noisiest thing around here is the protesters having their Sunday sing-along.”

However Vanessa Vine from Frack Free Sussex said the sound of drilling had been “almost unbearable” for householders in Balcombe.

She said: “A lot of residents have been complaining since the start about this, and it’s good to see something being done.

“People in the village have not been able to sleep and others have been complaining that their patio tiles have been shaking.

“Cuadrilla has exceeded the decibel levels so the site should be shut down.”

The news came as the cost of policing the on-going protest at the site was revealed to have soared to £2.3 million.

Last Thursday, an activist caused chaos when he mounted a home-made tripod in the middle of the road, causing mile-long tailbacks until police officers eventually arrested him.

Jamie Spiers, 29, has been charged with wilful obstruction of a highway, causing danger to road users and using threatening words or behaviour to cause harassment alarm or distress.

He will appear at Crawley Magistrates on September 18.

Superintendent Lawrence Hobbs said: "We will continue to remain open and transparent about the cost to Sussex Police of this operation.

“Officers remain at the site facilitating peaceful and safe protest. Those who break the law will continue to be arrested and we will do all we can to put them in front of a court.”