Vivienne Westwood joins anti-fracking protest camp as 1,000-strong crowd descends on Balcombe
August 16, 2013

Up to 1,000 new protesters, including the fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, started arriving in Balcombe today as the three-week protest against the possibility of fracking at the West Sussex village moved up a gear.

Like many of the existing protesters, the new influx of opponents plan to camp by the site for the next five days and organisers were furiously pitching tents, bringing in food and building make-shift toilets today, as dozens of extra police were drafted in.

Surrounded by activists, Dame Westwood called for a public debate on fracking, which she said could store up problems for decades to come if allowed to proceed.

"I’m anti-fracking and I’m here to protest. There has been no debate. They are trying to rush this thing through, for what?"

"I’m sure it’s bad and the only people who are going to benefit from it is this energy company….They all have vested interests. It’s a kind of club….Who do they [the government] think they are when I would say most of the country is really against fracking, particularly at this point in time, when we don’t know what’s at stake," she said.

The latest protesters, most of whom belong to a coalition called No Dash For Gas, will add to a core of about 200 protesters who started picketing the gate last month and have promised to take “direct action” rumored to include a plan to invade the site.

Cuadrilla, the company exploring for oil on the site to assess the potential for full-scale production, potentially using fracking, stopped drilling in anticipation of the heightened protest. The company, which is chaired by former BP chief executive Lord Browne, said it will only turn the drill on when it can be confident the site won’t be breached - expected to be towards the end of next week at the earliest.

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