A protest camp could be removed as early as Monday after a High Court hearing was scheduled.

West Sussex County Council is seeking a possession order for the verges along London Road, Balcombe, where anti-fracking activists have been camped for weeks.

The council is seeking the removal of people, tents, canopies and caravans from verges on road safety grounds.

Meanwhile the cost of the policing operation at Balcombe was revealed to have reached £2.5 million.

Activists have been protesting against energy firm Caudrilla, which has carried out exploratory drilling for oil and gas at the rural site.

Notice was given yesterday of the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, scheduled for Monday.

Protesters held a meeting yesterday to discuss the hearing with a source saying they would be “well defended” in court.

If the court grants the council immediate possession of the land, eviction could take place straight away.

Kathryn McWhirter, of No Fracking in Balcombe Society, said: “We will have very good legal representation.

“They have given us ridiculously short notice on a Friday afternoon when lawyers have gone home for the weekend. It just doesn’t give us time to mount a proper legal challenge.”

Under new directives campaigners will have to gather in an area away from the gates described as a “sheep pen”.

Mrs McWhirter added: “Nobody is going into the pen. We’re not sheep.”

A council spokesman said: “Today, the council reiterated its previous statement that it is seeking this order on road safety grounds, and urges people to move of their own volition.”

Meanwhile the Home Office is considering an appeal by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne for help with the operation costs.

Chief Supt Tony Blaker said: “This was not a decision taken lightly but with the continuing disruption to users of the road and the local community it was one that had to be made. “

As we have said all along, we are more than happy to facilitate legitimate, peaceful protest and will continue to do so, but step out of line and you are liable to arrest.”