Rodney Jago lives in Balcombe and supports Cuadrilla’s operation in the village and fracking. He spoke in favour of the company’s recent planning application to test the well when it was discussed by West Sussex County Council. He also writes to the local paper in favour of fracking
What has been the impact of Cuadrilla’s operation on the village?
Cuadrilla’s operation itself would hardly have been noticed and it made no more noise than a farm tractor.
The division in the village has been quite considerable. This is largely I think because a lot of outsiders were bussed in to the original meeting back in January 2012 in the Victory Hall, which was violently fractious, anti-American and abusive. To my mind a lot of perfectly valid points were lost and it became from the outset a confrontation.
I was told how ashamed I should feel of myself after the County Council meeting by one person. There are some fundamentalists who regard drilling for oil as the equivalent of child abuse. And anyone who supports it in the slightest way is a disgrace.
I send a letter to the Middy [Mid Sussex Times] and I get more farmers particularly saying “Well Done, that was OK”. So I don’t feel ridiculously isolated. I would emphasise that I remain on perfectly good terms and go and eat and drink with quite a lot of people who were opposed.
There are a few of us who are very concerned about our energy security and energy costs but it has to be said not many.
There are a lot of people who just don’t like the protests, as opposed to being in favour of drilling.
What’s your principal reason for thinking the exploration should go ahead?
I think we are importing 40% of our energy now. Unless we do something about it that is going to rise and I believe it is extremely dangerous to rely on imported energy. Just thinking that we can get it from nice countries like Norway and America is just not a solution to my mind.
Secondly, I think our economy is in a far worse state that our politicians would let us believe. We are still spending more than we are earning as a country and we still desperately need more services, health, education, you name it. If we produce our own energy, the royalties, the taxes, boosts our economy as opposed to the economy of Qatar or Norway. And subject to not ruining a beautiful area, which I don’t think it would, I think we should be behind anything that is going to produce more internal revenue.
This well would need one a tanker a week and a nodding donkey if it started to produce. Nobody is going to notice that.
There are 200 heavy vehicles a day going down the road. And the proof of the pudding is that other places where this is happening, there’s been no problem.
What do you think will happen at Balcombe?
I rather suspect the well might just be closed off. However, it may be that because of the protests, they can’t afford to let a well-fed Tory area like Balcombe get away with it and they might be encouraged by the authorities to go into production. So thanks to the protests we may have drilling operations that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
What advice would you give to a village in a similar situation to Balcombe?
Keep it calm and cool and keep outsiders out, especially Green MPs.
Why haven’t supporters of Cuadrilla in Balcombe formed an association?
It has been talked about. But quite frankly, we get so little support from either government or the industry I think a lot of people think ‘Why do we bother?’
I have written to Francis Maude more than once, saying ‘Some of us are trying to support your government’s policy, how about some easy-to-read leaflets or something?’. And I have said the same to Cuadrilla. They send these dull-as-ditch water letters.
They leave it to people like me to sort these things out. I think it is government who should be explaining. It’s there policy. I think it’s absolutely a right policy and there are piles of stuff in the better press supporting it but it’s not put over in an easy-to-digest fashion.