An energy firm has signed a new 30-year lease at a rural drillsite.

Drilling company Cuadrilla obtained the renewed lease on land at Lower Stumble, Balcombe, after its original three-year contract expired.

Campaigners said it condemned the village to 30 years of noise, trucks and pollution – and was proof Cuadrilla wanted to ‘frack’ at the site.

Kathryn McWhirter, of the No Fracking in Balcombe Society, said: “Cuadrilla must be pretty confident of extracting oil in large quantities, and over decades.

“We know that the well drilled there in the 80s didn’t flow – the rocks under Balcombe are not a conventional reservoir of oil.

“Cuadrilla know, we know, they will eventually have to frack. Not only are we in Balcombe early-day guinea pigs for the industry and the Government, we now face the prospect of nuisance, pollution and industrialisation of our landscape until 2043.”

Balcombe was the scene of fierce protests over the summer with hundreds of activists flocking to the area and a police operation costing £4 million. The company was testing for oil and gas – but admitted if it found shale gas it could apply to carry out hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking.

Fracking involves pumping water and chemicals underground to fracture shale rock and release gas.

Campaigners say it is unsafe and could pollute drinking water, while supporters argue it could be a much-needed source of fuel.

Balcombe estate owner Simon Greenwood has signalled his support for fracking if it is viable and safe.

But anti-fracking campaigners have suggested a conflict of interest over Mr Greenwood’s dual position as landowner and member of the parish council, which made no objection to Cuadrilla's original application in 2010.

West Sussex County Council is waiting for Cuadrilla to re-submit an application for well-testing at Balcombe.

Village residents will be consulted on the new plans once the application has been formally accepted.