MP says he was right to oppose drilling plans at Fernhurst

Andrew Tyrie, MP for Chichester ENGSUS00120121217161741
Andrew Tyrie, MP for Chichester ENGSUS00120121217161741

MP Andrew Tyrie has been accused of putting his constituents above the national interest after he wrote to the South Downs National Park Authority objecting to plans for exploratory drilling at Fernhurst.

But the Chichester MP has hit back saying his objection was a ‘common sense application of planning laws.’

Geoff Davies, chief executive of Celtique Energie which has submitted plans to drill for shale oil and gas on Nine Acre Copse, said Mr Tyrie had chosen to back his constituents who lived closest to the proposed development “rather than making an informed judgment based on a considered and detailed analysis of the environmental and traffic impacts”.

He said shale exploration should not be restricted to the north of England just because deposits in the south were under wealthy areas.

“Nature has put the resources and the geology where they are today — not the government, not Celtique — and that is why exploration needs to happen both north and south.”

Mr Tyrie told the Observer he had used “a common sense application of planning laws that were there to balance the local disruption and environmental impact against the wider benefits. This is what the planning system has always been there to do.”

He added: “I am not opposed in principle to all high- rise development in Great Britain, but if you asked me to comment on a planning application for a huge 100 storey tower 50 yard from Chichester Cathedral I would rigorously oppose it on behalf of many of my constituents.”

In his letter of objection to the South Downs National Park Authority Mr Tyrie stressed that he did not rule out fossil fuel exploration and development in the Downs even if in the park area or in the constituency, nor did he preclude the use of new technology.

“Some hydrocarbon extraction already takes place in the South Downs. Its impact at Singleton in the national park has been limited.

“The same goes for the exploration activity at Markswell Wood which began in 2008.

“However this application raises concerns regarding a number of principal environmental issues that mineral planning authorities are required to address, among other things under Planning Practice Guidance for Onshire Oil and Gas, paragraph 30. Several points need to be taken into account.”

He said exploration could lead to a “significant loss” of amenity in the South Downs National Park area both for those living nearby and for the wider community of park users. In addition a significant number of businesses could be affected.

“The height, noise and lorry movement intrusion of this proposed installation may be inappropriate for a national park and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

“The park authority obligation to conserve the landscape and its cultural and wildlife heritage is therefore directly engaged.”

Shale oil and gas drilling could offer great opportunities, but, he said, it was important to assess the appropriateness of each application.

“This application so close to homes and communities in a national park, bringing with it the prospect of subsequent development of indefinite duration and unknown scale fails this test.”