Protesters could once again descend on a Sussex village after an energy firm confirmed it wanted to carry out more drilling.

Thousands of anti-fracking protesters flocked to Balcombe last summer as Cuadrilla began looking for shale gas.

The site was closed by September after their planning permission expired, but the firm has said it did not finish its operations.

It has now applied for a six-month temporary planning permission to carry out flow testing, which has been recommended for approval by council officers.

The firm said it would seal the well after the works.

‘Physical protest’ Vanessa Vine, from Frack Free Sussex, said should the application go ahead, direct action would likely follow.

She added: “I have no doubt there would be more protests.

“People are more aware of the issue than last summer.

“They will be angry. There is overwhelming public opposition and there will possibly be considerable physical protest.”

Kathryn McWhirter, from the No Fracking in Balcombe Society, added: “We have learnt not to trust what Cuadrilla say.

“They said they did not want to come back and now they are.

“They might not want to frack but someone else might.”

Fellow member Charles Metcalfe said: “I could see the protests happening again this summer.

“I think there will be more local residents turning out saying ‘we do not want this’.”

Nearly 900 letters of objection have been lodged from residents and local authorities.

The application said: “The purpose of the further appraisal work is to establish whether the well has sufficient hydrocarbons with sufficient flow to make production economically viable.

“If appraisal indicates production from the well would be viable and the applicant wants to undertake production at the site, this would be subject to a new planning permission.”

Cuadrilla has re-emphasised that it does not intend to use hydraulic fracturing – known as fracking – at the site.

The application added: “The proposed flow testing operations do not include hydraulic fracturing and for the avoidance of doubt Cuadrilla can confirm that it will not be proposing to hydraulically fracture this well in the future.”

Opposition A ballot held by Balcombe Parish Council revealed 59.8% of voters wanted the council to oppose the application.

Ardingly Parish Council objected due to its close proximity to Ardingly reservoir and Worth Parish Council raised concerns over increased traffic generated in what it described as a “very rural area”.

Sussex Police, which spent nearly £4 million on policing the summer protests last year, made no comment on possible further protests.

But the force said it provided “crime prevention advice” including “benefits of secure perimeter fencing, lighting, and CCTV”.