Cuadrilla: Fracking Scaled Back In Balcombe As Critics Attack 'Mob Rule' By Protesters

Fracking firm Cuadrilla has "scaled back" its controversial drilling in the West Sussex countryside in the face of fierce protests.

Critics said the company had "caved to mob rule" after activists threatened direct action to disrupt the process.

On Friday night, Sussex Police said the operation had cost the cash-strapped force nearly £750,000.

And the RSPB joined the debate, lodging a complaint with Cuadrilla about its operation near Blackpool.

Up to 1,000 activists are due to join the protest camps in Sussex, which have divided locals in the village of Balcombe.

Cuadrilla confirmed it would scale back the operation on the advice of Sussex Police.

Supporters of fracking reacted angrily to the news, and the police came under heavy criticism.

Tory MP Mark Reckless told the Daily Mail: "We need to face down these green and far-Left extremists who want to stop our economy growing. I am sorry that Sussex Police have simply not been up to the mark to do it.

The Taxpayers' Alliance added: "The police are paid to uphold the rule of law and that includes protecting legal exploration for important natural resources from the activist mob trying to shut the operation down."

But protesters, including fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, said the drilling was being "rushed through".

"We don't know whether it will do good or bad. I'm sure it's bad and the only people who are going to benefit from it is this energy company who are associated with the Government," she said.

Some Balcombe residents have reacted angrily to the arrival of the anti-fracking protesters en masse, saying they are not representative of all villagers.

Derek Earl, 71, told the Press Association: "I'm in the middle on the fracking debate, neither for nor against, but what I'm fed up with is the anti-frackers' behaviour.

"This lot have tunnel vision and they won't listen to anyone else's view. What is annoying is when they say that the overwhelming majority of the village supports them. They don't."

Ewa Jasiewicz, of anti-fracking group No Dash for Gas, said activists have a "working relationship" with the farmer who owns the land on which the camp was being set up.

But Richard Ponsford, who owns Sidney Farm where the camp is, said the activists came on his land without his permission.

Ponsford, 59, said: "About three or four vans came on to the field and they spent about three hours barricading the field in.

"I certainly did not give my permission. There is no way I would have allowed them in at all."

The controversial method of fracking involves high pressure liquid being pumped deep underground to split shale rock and release gas supplies.

Opponents of fracking have highlighted concerns about potential water contamination and environmental damage, as well as small-scale earthquakes.

Meanwhile, the RSPB said it had concerns about the Lancashire site, which is close to an internationally important protected area for pink footed geese and whooper swans.