Protesters are claiming victory after an energy company dismantled its controversial drilling operation.

Cuadrilla’s permission to drill in Balcombe expired on Saturday – though the firm has now submitted a fresh application at the site.

Meanwhile the police operation, which has cost an estimated £4 million, is being scaled back.

Protester Felix Gonzalez said: “People were dancing in the street when they saw the trucks leaving, they were very happy.

"There’s talk of a party on site on Saturday night to celebrate.

“Most people are making plans to leave now. One or two are talking about staying on but that isn’t the consensus in the camp."

The energy firm announced its exploratory drilling for oil and gas was complete on Monday.

But it submitted a fresh application on Wednesday to cover flow testing of the horizontal oil exploration.

Chief executive Francis Egan said: “The well is now closed off for the coming months as Cuadrilla applies for planning permission to come back and test flow rates.”

Police numbers are being reduced after some 125 people were arrested during 65 days of protest.

Superintendent Lawrence Hobbs said: “We will maintain a few officers in the area, mostly to ensure road safety as traffic returns to normal on this unrestricted, unlit road, but we don't expect protesters to remain in the area now that the focus of their protest has departed.”

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne is applying to the Home Office
for support in meeting the £4m bill.

Sussex Police has been criticised for having too many officers at the site to deal with “obstructive” but “peaceful” protesters.

Activists are expected to re- establish themselves at Balcombe if Cuadrilla returns to the site.