Two more campaigners have been arrested during protests by anti-fracking campaigners staging direct action at a village in West Sussex where 16 environmentalists were arrested yesterday.

The arrests were reported after the campaigners, both women, made an attempt to halt a truck entering the site in the village of Balcombe where fracking company Cuadrilla is to begin the hydraulic fracturing of rock, known as "fracking".

Protests at the site continued for a second day, with the village becoming a focal point for activists opposed to the controversial technique, which involves pumping high-pressure liquid deep underground to split shale rock and release gas.

Campaigners warn of contamination of fresh water resources, and increased risk of ground tremors. Around 60 people had gathered, felling a tree to block access to the site, said police.

Sussex Police said five people were held for causing a danger to road users, and 11 more under the Trade Union Labour Relations Act, for trying to stop workers accessing the site.

A police spokesman said all arrests were made peacefully, but activists branded the police response "disproportionate".

Protester Ashley Williams, said: "The community are standing up for themselves against a company that is trying to poison them.

"As soon as regular people put their head above the parapet the state jumps in to defend the interests of a wealthy few."

Campaigners from No Fracking in Balcombe Society (NoFiBS) cast doubt on Cuadrilla's claim that it only wishes to carry out explorations at this stage.

Cuadrilla said it would need fresh permission to carry out fracking, but that it had permission to drill a 3,000ft (914m) well and 2,500ft (762m) horizontal bore at the site.

Activists called on the Government to abandon its policy on gas exploration, warning that oil rigs and fracking sites would blight the landscape.

Police said the arrests were made to "ensure public safety" after talks between activists and officers failed.

Chancellor George Osborne hopes fracking will increase Britain's energy supply, create thousands of jobs and boost tax revenues, following the shale gas boom in the US.

Fracking has yet to begin in the UK, but Osborne has offered tax breaks to fracking companies which he says make the UK the world's "most generous" location for shale gas extraction.