More than 1,000 protesters staged a noisy march to the exploratory drilling site at the centre of anti-fracking protests in the heart of the West Sussex countryside.

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VIDEO: Fracking protest march to drill site

Activists from across the country banged drums, chanted anti-fracking messages and held aloft banners on the outskirts of Balcombe, West Sussex.

Environmental activists join hands around the Cuadrilla exploratory drilling site at Balcombe, West Sussex.

Environmental activists join hands around the Cuadrilla exploratory drilling site at Balcombe, West Sussex.

A tense stand-off existed between protesters and a battery of police from forces across the UK who had formed a ring of steel around the Cuadrilla drilling site entrance.

Men, women and children chanted: “This is what democracy looks like” and “There are many many more of us than you,” as the convoy of campaigners marched along the road as a Sussex Police helicopter hovered overhead.

Cuadrilla, which has been conducting exploratory oil drilling near Balcombe and has sites on the Fylde coast, temporarily suspended its operation after taking advice from Sussex Police amid fears of unrest during the six-day Reclaim the Power camp, which began on Friday.

At last year’s Reclaim the Power camp, organised by No Dash for Gas, West Burton power station in Nottinghamshire was shut down and 21 people were arrested.

Although Cuadrilla is not conducting fracking near Balcombe, and would need to apply for permission, protesters fear the energy firm will go on to do so.

Balcombe resident Douglas Wragg said: “Because we have here a travesty of democracy and we’ve tried every democratic path to use, the only choice we have left is direct action.

“I’ve been living here for 20 years and I would never have imagined myself being involved in protest. But you either lie down and let Cuadrilla ride roughshod over you, or take direct action.”

Protester Emma Hughes said, “I’m here in solidarity with the community of Balcombe, and I’m here because we can’t afford to extract new fossil fuels when climate change is already killing hundreds of thousands of people.”

More than 45 arrests have been made since the protests sprang up on the outskirts of Balcombe three weeks ago.

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