Sue Taylor is a chartered accountant and has lived in Balcombe for eight years. She suspended her business specialising in banking accounting systems a year ago to concentrate on opposing Cuadrilla and fracking. In the past year she became a founding member of the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association.
The past year
I basically shut my business down last July, having run it for 10 years. I couldn’t possibly combine that sort of work with what was going on from July onwards because my company work is also very intense, high pressure and project based, and often very long hours. So I could not ever have envisaged doing both of them.
I normally function in an area where I’m the expert and people come to me for advice. To go from that to knowing nothing and having to educate myself on so many different topics, it has been exhausting.
It is just endless and it’s just a treadmill. We no sooner got through one thing then we would be facing another thing and another thing. We kept saying: “Oh this will be the last thing. We’ll just get the objection in, we’ll just do this, we’ll just do that” but it never really ends.
I’ve been forced to do things that wouldn’t have been my inclination: I’ve had to do admin, which I don’t normally do; fundraising, which I wouldn’t normally go anywhere near; speaking in public, which I’ve not had to do before. But I’ve always felt there was no choice. I’ve got no regrets, that’s for sure. I would have been much more unhappy if I’d not done anything.
Divisions in the village
I don’t see there is the division in that way at all. I have far more friends and I know far more people with whom I’m very comfortable in the village. Prior to July last year, I hardly knew anyone.
The policing operation
I was utterly shocked by the behaviour of the police.
I have worked in South America and seen South American police and they are just like that. I have that in my head, that is Brazil, that is Venezuela, this is not something I ever see in Sussex.
The sheer numbers of them. There were so many of them compared to the protector community. The first day I went down [to the site] I really noticed this because the police were all very hyped up. They hadn’t been there very long and they were big men, shoulder-to-shoulder and marching in a very paramilitary style. I thought it was very unpleasant. It was almost as if Hitler had won the war – this is my vision of what Nazi rule of Germany would be like.
It was quite obvious to me that the strategy had been to spend as much money as possible to make it so expensive that we can’t have these protests. That’s why they had the police helicopter circling all the time, burning money. It was nothing to do with protecting property or protecting people. It had been strategically decided: “We are going to make this very expensive”.
And then I guess it backfired because it ramped up the cost so much. Then the argument became we can’t afford to have these drill sites because it’s going to cost us £4 million each time. So then they had to change the argument.
I just felt we were being treated like pawns on a table with these strategy people talking about what is the image going to look like.
It is no surprise that they were constantly happy to show in the media pictures of the tents in the summer but they wouldn’t show the hardship of the people had in Barton Moss, camping in the snow. They wanted an image to say “Oh this is just hippies who are not really very serious. It was just such manipulation. You feel, almost everything, sadly, seems to be done by manipulation.
Views on fracking
Pre-June last year I thought it must be ok; otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it. Now I think it would be a complete catastrophe if it sets off in this country.
I can’t see any upside. And I think there is a massive, massive risk.
I don’t think it is going to take off in this country because every time it comes into somebody’s back yard you are going to get the same reactions that there were in Balcombe. I don’t think it is sustainable in this country. They need economies of scale to get this to work. I think they will keep trying for a few years but long-term it’s going to go nowhere.
I’m really proud of what Balcombe’s done and I think we’ve helped other communities, which is also important.
If we had caved and laid down and just let it all happen, how much harder would it have been for the next village?
The fact that we woke up in the end and fought it tooth and nail is helping all the other communities.
We need new people to come in because it is not realistic for the existing core of people to keep going at 100%. I need to get back to work at some point. And I think there’s plenty of other people in the village who could come in and take up some of the work that we do, bring in fresh blood and fresh energy. People need to have a rest. This is going to be with us for at least 30 years in Balcombe. This is not something that is ever going to go away.