Stuart Gregory is a Balcombe resident and a member of the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association. He has spent part of the past year talking to communities who may be affected by fracking. More recently, he has worked on FFBRA’s request for a judicial review of West Sussex County Council’s decision to grant Cuadrilla planning permission to test its well at Balcombe.
The past year
I thought I was peacefully retired when this started. I had just bought a house and was in the process of extending and modernising it and not much has happened in the last 12 months with that house.
Impact on the village
It’s revealed how fragile village life is I think for a lot of people in the village. It’s not a very robust structure, some aspects of village life.
We [the opponents of Cuadrilla] have ruined the established cosy little power base of a small group of people. And that’s caused an immense amount of resentment.
I find the late nights under pressure trying to meet deadlines difficult. I thought I’d retired from doing this. I used to stay up writing documents till dawn for money. As a business that’s fine but it’s rather strange doing it in the community sense
There was a deliberate policy to intimidate people and deter them from opposing the oil companies.
By and large it’s worked because most of the communities we’ve talked to, with the exception of Wisborough Green and Fernhurst, are more afraid of the protesters than they are of the oil companies. Even with the judicial review, the article on the BBC was still pictures of protesters. We’re not Balcombe residents. The word Balcombe residents hardly ever appeared – it is always protesters
The issue is perceived by a lot of engineering males as a pioneering, high-tech engineering heroic exploration. The reality is completely different. It is “shoot the natives and get the money out of the ground”
Fracking is not the only thing that matters. The whole of the oil industry has these dirty little secrets that are coming out. If they’re not fracking, they’re still a danger to the community. They’re flaring. There are radioactive NORM materials coming out of all the wells.
The sheer arrogance of the county council is the thing that struck us. Why are they so arrogant? What happened to this public service, not only in Westminster but in County Hall?
Anybody who has the ability to understand what is going on will eventually convert to opposition. But it is going to be a very slow process because there is no money and no organisation to nationally compete with the PR companies employed by the industry.
We’ve got to contend with a 30-year-lease that has been signed on the site at Balcombe. So we could have a 30-year battle on our hands.