Mike Weatherley, the Conservative MP for Hove, has criticised “lifestyle protesters” for poisoning the debate about fracking.
More than a dozen people from Brighton and Hove have been arrested over the past few weeks along with more than 50 others as the protests against fracking company Cuadrilla have intensified.
Those arrested include the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas.
Cuadrilla said that it was trying to carry out test drilling for oil and would only seek permission for fracking – hydraulic fracturing – if it was not viable to extract oil from the area.
And if the company decided to start fracking for gas, it would need fresh permission to do so.
Mr Weatherley said that professional protesters, who relished altercations with the authorities, were obscuring the legitimate concerns of local residents.
He said that lifestyle protesters, the likes of whom regularly attended an array of protests throughout the county, had blindly galvanised support against fracking.
And they had cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds in additional policing, he said, while dismissing any facts surrounding shale gas extraction.
As an opponent to new nuclear power stations, Mr Weatherley said that he was keen to ensure that a legitimate debate could take place on how we could keep the lights on in the future.
He said that he appreciated that local residents had concerns and wanted an open debate based on tangible evidence, not one tarnished by reports of fighting with police.
Mr Weatherley said: “Professional protestors from all walks of life have latched on to the anti-fracking cause without really assessing the evidence and have been exploiting local residents’ fears by perpetuating myths about the drilling.
“I fully support Sussex Police as they protect the exploratory site in Balcombe.
“Democracy, not criminal antics, must be allowed to take precedence.
“I personally would choose fracking over nuclear power but am keen to hear all of the arguments for and against the practice.
“I have actually been contacted by several constituents about fracking who have been strongly in support of it, simply because professional protesters are against it.
“The serial protesters are poisoning the debate.
“We need to hear all views if we are to take a mature decision.”