Anti-fracking protesters camped on roadside grass verges have been urged to leave – with officials warning they are prepared to go to court to evict them.

The camp at Balcombe, near Haywards Heath, was set up to campaign against energy firm Cuadrilla which was test-drilling for oil and gas at the site.

Activists were worried the firm would start fracking, a controversial process where chemicals and water are pumped underground to fracture shale rock and release gas.


The remaining activists said they would leave by tomorrow after the company dismantled its drilling operation on September 27.

To ensure they do, council officials have said they are prepared to go to court for a possession order in the coming days to ensure the village returns to its peaceful ways as quickly as possible.

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council, which is responsible for highways in the area, said: “Cuadrilla completed its operations at the site at the end of last week, but people are still camped on the verges and a hut has also been erected.

“Our main reason for seeking a possession order was because of the very serious safety concerns we have for the demonstrators and all road users.

“This is a busy, unlit road with a 60mph limit. There is now a greatly reduced police presence, and also evidence that the speed of vehicles passing through this area is increasing. The weather is also changing, and daylight hours are reducing which also increases the dangers.

“As a responsible highway authority we simply cannot have people putting themselves and drivers at risk.”

Last month the council applied to the High Court for a possession order of the roadside verges on the B2036, but the hearing was adjourned.

The local authority could apply to the court tomorrow for the possession order hearing to be re-activated if the protestors have not left.

A designated protest area has also been re-instated as a safe way for people to continue their protest.

Cuadrilla has applied for new permission to carry out “flow tests” at the site after test-drilling found oil in rock samples.

The new application does not include a request to carry out hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Campaigners have pledged to come back to the site if Cuadrilla returns.