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County's fracking fighters on Balcombe's picketlines
Buy this photo » Ag MacKeith was among 60 Oxfordshire people at the fracking protest camp in Balcombe, West Sussex. Picture: OX61430 Denis Kennedy
ABOUT 60 protesters from Oxfordshire have been part of the fight against fracking in West Sussex.
The campaigners from Oxford No Dash for Gas travelled down to Balcombe to join the picket lines as a first step against the controversial energy extraction project being expanded to their home county.
They were amongst 1,000 people in Balcombe, the first site in southern England where exploratory drilling is taking place by energy firm Cuadrilla.
Fracking is a controversial gas extraction method which campaigners claim can cause earthquakes and pollution.
It involves pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into underground rock to fracture it and release trapped gas.
Oxford No Dash for Gas member Andy Edwards, 28, said: “We saw the protest as an opportunity while fracking is a fledgling industry to get in and stop it before it takes off.”
Environmental activists have been in Balcombe since July, but the six-day Reclaim the Power camp was organised by No Dash for Gas.
The national campaign has an Oxford base of around 25 members who are from Botley, Cowley, Wolvercote, Marston, and Iffley.
About 60 from Oxford joined the Balcombe protest, and a small group went on to protest at the HQ of Cuadrilla’s PR agency Bell Pottinger on Monday.
During the Bell Pottinger protest campaigners superglued themselves to the firm’s offices.
Two Oxford No Dash for Gas members were held by police during the protest.
Last month ministers identified a 900sq km block of north Oxfordshire between Banbury, Bicester and Kidlington as a possible site for oil and gas exploration.
On Monday Prime Minister David Cameron said he would be “happy” for fracking to happen in his own West Oxfordshire constituency.
But Mr Edwards, from Cowley, said: “That really brought it home. So much of the UK could be targeted and so much of it is in this area.
“It is a strong wake up call for people in Oxford.
By being targeted on our own doorstep it will make people stand up.”
But a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Cameron Ramos, said Oxfordshire isn’t thought to be suitable for fracking because the local sandstone is not shale.
He said: “The area is included in the area subject to strategic environmental assessment with a view to potential future licensing because there is thought to be some hydrocarbon potential.
“Wells drilled near Twyford in the 1960s tested gas, but this gas is believed to be sourced from the Oxfordshire coalfields and is now located in sandstone not shale.”
Old Botley pensioner Ag MacKeith also joined the Sussex protest camp.
She said: “The aim was to raise the profile of fracking and make it clear to the government that they can’t just rail-road in.”
No Dash for Gas protestors stormed an Oxford University Energy Society event in June and organised a silent disco protest at the British Gas HQ in Cowley last month.
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