Balcombe oil drilling begins
Drilling for oil close to the West Sussex village of Balcombe began on Friday following a week of blockades and protests by anti-fracking activists who fear that the possible use of the extraction method could lead to the pollution of water courses.
Nevertheless, the protest goes on. Today is Day 12 of the Balcombe blockade known as the Great Gas Gala.
Cuadrilla, the oil and gas exploration company, said work started at around 11.30am on Friday 2nd August and drills would penetrate more than 900 metres (3,000ft) into the Sussex shale to test for the availability of oil reserves.
Protesters who have been occupying the entrance to the drill site since 25th July were distraught at the news and predicted that protests would get "a lot stronger and a lot more fiery".
The drilling will continue for several weeks and the firm has a licence until 28 September. It has not ruled out the possibility of using hydraulic fracturing – the technique known as fracking – to extract oil and gas by forcing liquid into the rock under high pressure and it has submitted an application to extend drilling until the end of March 2014.
Opponents are afraid that fracking liquids could poison waterways in the area and could even lead to earth tremors, which they say could jeopardise the safety of a nearby railway line running into London.
Drilling was due to have started Monday 29th July but was delayed when dozens of protesters from Balcombe and beyond turned out to halt deliveries.
Those arrested included Natalie Hynde, 30, daughter of the Kinks' Ray Davies and the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde. Her boyfriend, the veteran eco campaigner Simon "Sitting Bull" Medhurst, 55, was also held after the pair superglued their hands together around the gate for around two hours.
A group of 10 opponents of Cuadrilla's fracking operations in Lancashire have arrived in West Sussex to support the local campaign.
More info from http://greatgasgala.org.uk/ or http://frack-off.org.uk/
Guardian video - meet the protestors: