This is what the fury’s all about: First photo of potential fracking site in heart of England that has sparked huge protests

* This rig has been drilling a six-inch exploratory borehole 3,000ft into the shale and limestone
*The controversial technique is expected to be used if fuel reserves are found at Balcombe, West Sussex
* Residents from Balcombe have made it clear they are opposed to any such thing
* According to Cuadrilla, which is licensed to carry out the Balcombe test drill, the operation will continue for two-and-a-half months

Surrounded by fields and woodland, this is the drilling rig that has sparked fierce protests about the future of Britain’s countryside.

Since Friday, it has been drilling a six-inch exploratory borehole 3,000ft into the Sussex shale and limestone in search of oil and gas.

Although there are no immediate plans to use fracking at the site, the controversial technique is expected to be deployed if fuel reserves are found.

Cuadrilla site at Balcombe

Cuadrilla site at Balcombe

Fracking involves pumping water, sand and chemicals deep underground at high pressure to crack rocks and retrieve the natural gas trapped inside.

Opponents say the process causes tremors, noise and pollution.

If used, the night sky around the village of Balcombe in West Sussex could become lit up with ‘flares’ of burning gas similar to those seen on oil rigs.

Campaigners at the gate

Campaigners at the gate

Sussex countryside

Sussex countryside

Pictures of the Balcombe rig emerged as George Osborne declared it would be a ‘tragedy’ if Britain does not take advantage of shale gas exploration.

In a controversial intervention, the Chancellor distanced himself from comments made by his father-in-law Lord Howell last week, in which the Tory peer claimed that fracking should only take place in the ‘desolate’ North East.

Mr Osborne said: ‘It would be a real tragedy for Britain to basically allow this energy revolution to bypass our country.

Fracking protest at Balcombe in Sussex

Fracking protest at Balcombe in Sussex

Get the Frack Out of Sussex

Get the Frack Out of Sussex

‘It would mean we would have much higher energy costs than other countries, it would mean jobs would go to those other countries and businesses would go to those other countries, and we would all pay a very heavy price for that.’

But residents from Balcombe have made it clear they are opposed to any such thing.

More than 30 campaigners, including the daughter of singers Chrissie Hynde and Ray Davies, have been arrested after clashes with police outside the site.

According to Cuadrilla, which is licensed to carry out the Balcombe test drill, the operation will continue for two-and-a-half months.

It is also looking to acquire up to six more sites for shale gas exploration.

Drilling could begin on two of these as early as 2014.

Despite living in neighbouring Kent, Energy Minister Michael Fallon is keen that the dash for gas extends across a vast swathe of the South.

He said there may be opportunities to exploit shale gas from Dorset, through Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Kent.
Yesterday Downing Street endorsed his enthusiasm.

Asked about the energy minister’s assertion, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘The PM has no reason to think that Michael Fallon is wrong about that.

‘The Prime Minister thinks that shale gas represents an exciting potential resource for Britain that could contribute to our energy security.

‘Fracking will only be allowed where it is safe and poses no risk to the environment.’

Mr Osborne made it clear that communities where shale gas extraction takes place will be compensated. He said: ‘We’ve designed a regime that is very generous for local communities where this activity might take place.’

But Craig Bennett, of Friends of the Earth, said: ‘Fracking poses a real threat to the local environment and causes more climate-wrecking pollution.

‘It’s little wonder communities across the country, including the Tory shires, are mobilising against it.’

'We're in luck. The fracking blocks our view of the wind turbine.'

‘We’re in luck. The fracking blocks our view of the wind turbine.’

Published by The Mail.

Although there are no immediate plans for fracking, and Cuadrilla has no licence to frack, Cuadrilla has made it clear it will apply for a licence to frack if it finds shale gas deposits.

Anyone who has travelled by train from Victoria to Brighton, or flown in or out of Gatwick Airport, will know the Sussex countryside of green fields, trees, small woodlands and bushy hedges. Fracking would turn this lovely landscape into a post-Apocalypse industrial hell. Plus pollution of groundwater, earthquakes, road traffic, noise, dirt, light pollution at night.

George Osborne demonstrates his ignorance of fracking matches that of his ignorance of economics.

Fracking will give a temporary respite in our insatiable demand for gas, is unlikely to bring prices down.

Osborne has given oil companies tax concessions that turns the principle of The Polluter Shall Pay on its head, into one where The Polluter Shall be Paid.

We need a secure energy policy that exploits renewable resources.

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