Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Frack demo police cost hits £2.3m

Some 1,000 extra protesters descended on the outskirts of Balcombe for the Reclaim the Power camp

The cost of the policing operation at the anti-fracking protests in West Sussex has soared to £2.3 million, it was revealed.

The figure has risen dramatically from the near-£750,000 announced by Sussex Police before the six-day Reclaim the Power camp.

Some 1,000 extra protesters descended on the outskirts of Balcombe for the camp, which included a march and two days of direct action. Sussex Police said policing over the six days cost £1.5 million alone, including mutual aid provided by officers from 10 other forces across the UK.

Anti-fracking activists were protesting about energy firm Cuadrilla's exploratory oil drilling operation in the countryside. It is expected that the final cost of policing the protests, which are continuing on a much smaller scale, will eventually hit around £3.7 million.

During the camp, organised by No Dash For Gas, more than 30 people were arrested, including former Green Party leader and Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas. Since the protests sprang up in the West Sussex countryside at the end of July amid fears that fracking may take place, 80 people have been arrested.

Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne said the involvement of national protest groups led the force to deploy "significant" extra resources. She has written to the Government, saying the force intends to apply for Home Office help in funding the extra costs of the operation.

Ms Bourne said: "It is important that taxpayers are kept updated on the ongoing costs of this policing operation. The increased involvement of national protest groups has meant that Sussex Police has had to deploy significant additional resources, including mutual aid from other police forces and this has put a strain on the police budget.

"Sussex Police is policing what I believe is a national issue. What happens in Sussex may determine what will happen nationally across police force areas in the future. I have now spoken and written to the policing Minister, confirming that I will be applying to the Home Office for funding to meet the additional costs of this policing operation, once the final figures are known. We anticipate that the final cost of this operation will be approximately £3.7 million.

"I have been aware this would be a long-running operation and, while the force has scaled back its resources since Wednesday, they still expect to need a presence at the site for a number of weeks. My chief finance officer is already in discussion with the resourcing unit at the Home Office to determine what information they will need in order to facilitate our application."

Ms Bourne also said an "accountability meeting" will be held on September 6 to address concerns raised about the policing of the protest.

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