West Sussex County Council Given Possession Order

Anti-fracking protesters will no longer be allowed to camp on grass verges near to a former exploratory oil drilling site after a council was granted a possession order by the High Court.

West Sussex County Council's bid to evict protesters from the land on the B2036 London Road in Balcombe had previously hit the buffers, but today a High Court judge granted its application for a possession order for the verges.

The council maintains that campaigners are putting themselves and others at risk by continuing to camp by the busy, unlit road with a 60mph speed limit.

The authority went to the High Court in September to ask for a possession order relating to the verges where activists set up camp in July.

But Mrs Justice Lang adjourned the application after describing it as "flawed'', with the result that if the council had not applied to restore it in a new form by October 8, it would be either withdrawn or dismissed.

The council reinstated its application and said it could not allow the camp to continue outside the site where energy firm Cuadrilla conducted test drilling, which has now ended.

A council spokesman said: "West Sussex County Council is very pleased that a High Court judge has this afternoon granted its application for a possession order for verges next to the B2036 at Balcombe.

"An early decision will now be made about enforcing the order. This may mean some disruption for people using the B2036, and we would urge people to listen out for traffic bulletins and also check the county council's twitter site WSCCNews.

"We would remind people that this action is only being taken in the interests of safety for all road users, including the demonstrators.

"The B2036 is an unlit road with a 60mph limit. Vehicle speeds have been increasing since the main protest camp ended, and, with darker nights and the change in weather, the dangers to safety have increased.

"The county council has provided a designated area where people can gather should they want to continue their protest, but camping will not be permitted.

"This is designed to strike a careful balance between maintaining road safety and people's right to demonstrate peacefully. We will, following comments by the judge, look at the suitability and siting of this area to see if it can be improved.

"We would urge people who are still camping on the verges to respect the court decision, and leave the roadside and remove their possessions and any structures they have erected.''