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County Council takes action at Balcombe to maintain road safety

Date: 9 September 2013
Press release number: PR5661

West Sussex County Council has confirmed that it is to remove people, roadside tents, canopies and caravans on the B2036 London Road, Balcombe, in an area close to the site where energy company Cuadrilla is completing exploratory drilling work.

The Council, as the Highways Authority, is taking the action over increased concerns for the safety of all road users.

Notices will be served today (Monday) and if the land is not vacated within 24 hours this will be followed up with court action to seek possession of Council owned verges and an injunction preventing people from returning.

The County Council said today in a statement:

“This is a very busy road with a 60 mph limit, and unlit at night. There are increased safety concerns that as a responsible highways authority we must address.

“Our action is designed to protect all road users including the people on the verges and passing motorists. It is purely and simply about road safety, and also keeping the public highway open.

“There have been a number of incidents in the road last week that have given rise to new concerns.  The incident during which a man climbed a tripod in the middle of the road, has shown the sort of dangers posed to motorists and people on the verges. Cars had to take avoiding action, and it delayed 60 children getting to school.

“We have been monitoring the area closely. It is clear people are regularly straying on to the road and we also need to re-establish visibility lines for accesses to a nearby farm and business unit.

“Local schools have started a new term and as a result there is likely to more traffic using this section of road.

“There has also been rain and that brings with it the risks of vehicles skidding if they are distracted by activity in the road or on the verges.

“We would emphasise again that this action is being taken to protect all road users.

“This is not about removing the right to peaceful protest.  The Council and Police are establishing a defined area where peaceful protest will be facilitated.  We would encourage protestors to use it.

“We need to strike a balance between the safety of road users and the democratic right of people to protest lawfully. We believe that this move meets this balance and shows that we are acting reasonably.”

Last Monday it was announced that Cuadrilla has withdrawn an application for an extension to its planning permission for exploratory drilling at Balcombe. This means that a Planning Committee meeting due on 19 September has been cancelled.

The company has confirmed that a new planning application for the site will be lodged in the near future, but this will not go in front of the Committee before 2014, and there will be a full consultation with every opportunity to make representations.

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