January showdown for Balcombe drilling site application

Balcombe residents opposed to drilling activities at the Lower Stumble site (photo submitted).
Balcombe residents opposed to drilling activities at the Lower Stumble site (photo submitted).

A decision on plans to extend activities at a drilling site near Balcombe is set to be made in January.

Cuadrilla has already drilled a borehole and in 2014 was granted temporary permission for flow testing and monitoring.

However this has now expired and the company has submitted a new bid for two-year temporary permission from West Sussex County Council to complete the works.

But both residents and the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association have continued to raise concerns around the industrialisation of the area, noise, air and potential water pollution, increases in lorry movements, and the impact on wildlife and the environment.

The application is due to be debated by the county council’s planning committee on Tuesday January 9 at County Hall, with officers recommending approval.

More than 2,700 letters opposing the application have been received, while Balcombe Parish Council, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Ardingly Parish Council, Worth Parish Council, the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s Sussex branch, and Friends of the Earth have also raised objections.

But according to officers: “It is concluded that the number of vehicles required to carry out the development is not significant enough to raise concerns regarding highway capacity or safety.

Emissions from the development would be controlled through the planning regime as well as through the environmental permitting and health and safety regimes and the Health and Safety Executive which would ensure that water quality would not be compromised and that emissions to air would be acceptable.

“Although the rig, crane and flare on the site would be visible at times during the development, the impact would be short-lived and so would not compromise the landscape qualities of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

Given the high level of interest in the application attendance at the committee meeting will be via allocated ticket as there is a maximum of 80 seats available in the public gallery.

Tickets will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

To apply, send a request with your contact details to democratic.services@westsussex.gov.uk

The meeting will be webcast live, with the recording available for six months after the event.

According to Cuadrilla’s application: “With the exception of an increase in the height of the workover rig from 22m to 32m, the proposed development is the same as that which was granted planning consent in 2014.

“Planning permission is now being sought for a temporary two-year period and the proposed work involves flow testing and pressure monitoring of the existing exploration borehole.

“If this testing reveals that the hydrocarbon reserves are not of sufficient quantity and/or quality to commercially extract then the existing borehole would be plugged with cement and the land restored back to its previous use as forestry storage.

“In the event that the borehole testing and pressure monitoring confirms that there are hydrocarbon reserves that could be commercially extracted then the existing borehole would be temporarily suspended whilst a separate planning application prepared for a future production phase.”

Meanwhile on its website the company says we do not need to and will not be carrying out hydraulic fracturing’.

For more information visit either Frack Free Balcombe Residents Assocation’s website or Cuadrilla’s website.