Campaigners against fracking march through Billingshurst

JPCT 221114 S14490418x Billingshurst fracking demo. -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-141124-090556001

JPCT 221114 S14490418x Billingshurst fracking demo. -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-141124-090556001

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Campaigners organised a convoy of vehicles through Billingshurst last weekend to oppose fracking and highlight concerns over the controversial process.

Celtique Energie was granted permission from West Sussex County Council to erect a temporary rig to explore for oil and gas on land off Adversane Lane in Broadford Bridge south of the village back in February 2013.

However residents, business owners, and bikers held a demonstration on Saturday November 22 and drove through the village, towards the planned drill site and back again.

A spokesperson for Keep Billingshurst Frack Free said: “Road users are especially concerned about their safety with the increase in HGV traffic, particularly at a notoriously hazardous junction.

“This could become even worse in the future if the rural area here is industrialised due to fracking.”

Celtique has stated it is looking for conventional energy deposits at Broadford Bridge as opposed to shale oil and gas, reached by ‘fracking’, which involves pumping water and chemicals underground at high pressure to split apart the porous shale rock.

Summer-long protests at Balcombe hit national headlines last year as Cuadrilla carried out exploratory activities, as campaigners feared that it could lead to fracking on site.

Two separate applications for exploratory drilling by Celtique in West Sussex, one in Fernhurst and another between Wisborough Green and Kidrford, have been refused.

Claire Robertson, from Frack Free Sussex, felt that while companies might initially be looking for conventional deposits, if they found unconventional targets their focus might shift towards fracking. She added: “There’s still this push from the Government to industrialise large amount of West Sussex.”

Celtique has appealed against West Sussex County Council’s decision to reject its application near Wisborough Green.

The application was thrown out by the county council’s Planning Committee in July after its officers recommended refusal on highways safety and capacity grounds.

Last month Geoff Davies, chief executive officer at Celtique, said: “We are firmly of the view that WSCC has not followed the spirit or the letter of Government policy or good practice in dealing with this planning application, which is totally compliant, comprehensive and of high quality.

“Therefore we have no option but to lodge an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate, for it to take a fair and objective view.

“From our detailed studies we believe that this is an optimal location to undertake exploratory drilling to quantify the amount of untapped oil or gas resources present in this part of the Weald Basin, which we think has the potential to be nationally significant.

“Therefore securing planning permission to explore at this site is essential if we are to prove how significant this resource could be for the country.”

A spokesperson for Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green (KKWG) said: “We are back stronger and more determined than ever to fight this case once and for all.

“We are under no illusions regarding the task we face and the hurdle we are now approaching. Whilst we appreciate that the festive season is not the ideal time to be asking for your continued support, we do need to raise some serious funds.”

For more information visit KKWG’s website at www.no-drilling.co.uk