CAMPAIGNERS are reeling after West Sussex County Council’s planning committee approved plans for exploratory drilling at Balcombe.
On Tuesday (April 29), the committee approved Cuadrilla’s plans for temporary oil and gas exploration at Lower Stumble Wood near Balcombe, subject to additional conditions.
Committee chairman Heidi Brunsdon said: “I thought the debate was robust. Members gave the issues a good airing and the further conditions we agreed might not go as far as some would have wanted, but we feel they were proportionate in addressing issues members of the committee had surrounding this application.”
More than 100 members of the public attended the meeting in Horsham and groups from across Sussex staged demonstrations outside.
The Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green (KKWG) group is fighting applications by Celtique Energie to drill for oil and gas at Fernhurst, and land between Kirdford and Wisborough Green. A group spokesman said: “This decision only helps increase supporters of anti-fracking groups such as KKWG. Local people, whose lives this will change, voted against fracking, yet the government don’t want to listen.
“While we are disappointed in this outcome, it will strengthen our resolve regarding the outstanding Celtique application.”
Friends of the Earth South East campaigner Brenda Pollack added: “We are extremely disappointed that councillors have not listened. This is an attempt by Cuadrilla to set the wheels in motion for dirty fossil fuel extraction.”
Celtique has now submitted additional information to the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) as part of its application for an exploration well at Fernhurst. The new information, addresses feedback from consultees and provides additional information on topics including construction management, landscape and visual impact, noise and vibration, and transport and access.
Geoff Davies, chief executive officer at Celtique, said: “We believe our ES is one of the most detailed ever submitted for an onshore exploration well in the UK.
“We believe the SDNPA has all the information it requires to determine the application on the agreed date of July 10.
“We have made every effort to ensure our application is as comprehensive and robust as practically possible.”
Celtique has removed the optional horizontal well included in the original proposal, which it says will shorten the drilling time by about 34 weeks and ‘reduce the number of environmental impacts associated with the project’.