David Perrin is a Balcombe resident and a member of the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association, which meets each Thursday morning in the Half Moon pub in the village. Until last year, he always voted Conservative but the experience at Balcombe has destroyed his faith in the party.
Attitude to the Conservatives and Government
I just think this government lost all credibility when they allowed the chairman of Cuadrilla [Lord Browne] to be brought into the centre of the decision-making process. I think there are probably an awful lot of people out there who assumed they knew exactly what Lord Browne’s background was, but had no idea what was going on. Here you have, at the centre of government, a guy who has a vested interest in being at the head of a company which wishes to extract these oils and gases from the soil, and the whole government seems to be dancing to his tune.
We tend to treat our politicians as honourable people and that attitude has taken quite a bashing over the course of the past year or so.
One thing after another has exposed the government to a lot of criticism and yet right now we have this guy who seems to be directing, pulling the strings in the background. And it’s not just him; it’s his appointees within government departments who are also pulling along in one direction only.
I find the whole thing thoroughly depressing and demoralising to the point where I’ve always been a Tory voter, there’s no way I’m going to vote for them again. It has totally and utterly destroyed my faith in that particular political party.
I will never ever believe anything that they say ever, again because they have proven to be totally and utterly untrustworthy and arrogant with it is as well.
One of the problems I have with the Environment Agency and West Sussex County Council is that they are not independent. They don’t have the ability to have an independent thought. The way they do their job is quite clearly directed by government departments.
The government decides it will do something and it has an agency which enacts that policy. And that’s all they [the regulators] are doing.
They’re not looking after the interests of Balcombe or anywhere else. They’re just actually looking after the interests of the government department who are their principal.
No national debate
There has been no national debate on this. All we ever get is statements coming from the oil exploration companies or from the government about regulation and the rest of it and virtually pooh-poohing the anti-faction as being a lot of uninformed greenies. When in fact, quite the opposite is true.
We probably know more about what all this means that a lot of politicians probably do. They just absorb like sponges what they are told by the industry.
And yet there’s no attempt to meet with us to discuss this so that we can get the point across exactly what it is that we’re concerned about. For me, they all seem to be very pro and very anti-anti faction. It gets very depressing after a while.
Roller coaster campaign
I tend to sort of vacillate from one sort of point of view to the other. Something happens and it’s a positive thing and I think “Yes we can actually make a big difference here and win”. And then you get something like the government then trying to take away your civil rights by allowing these companies to come along and drill under your property without so much of a by or leave and I think “Oh God, here we go again”.
It is a roller coaster between hoping for the best and at the same time rather wondering whether or not the worst isn’t just waiting for you round the corner.
But I think overall, I try to be optimistic. Once you’ve committed, you don’t feel like you want to give up. You have to say, “We haven’t won this time but there’s the next battle”.
Prior to all this happening, I probably knew about half a dozen people well in the village. Since this has happened I now know everyone [on the committee of FFBRA], plus all the other people that we meet on a Thursday morning, plus all the other people we’ve met at the various planning meetings.
So in fact, I’ve now discovered a community which I was totally unaware of before.