Decision due on further oil testing plans at Balcombe site

Plans to carry out further testing for oil in Balcombe are due to be discussed by West Sussex County Council next week.

Monday, 22nd February 2021, 12:55 pm

Back in 2019 Angus Energy withdrew an application for flow testing at the Lower Stumble site as council planning officers were recommending refusal.

Officers said there were no exceptional circumstances to allow such major development in the High Weald AONB with minimal benefits to the local economy, pointing out how there were alternative sources of hydrocarbon supply to meet national need.

Late last year, the company submitted a revised application to the county council, but objectors argued the only significant change in the new proposal is shortening the timescale of testing from up to three years to only one year with the same procedures and the same risks to water quality, the environment and air quality.

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Plans are due to be discussed by the council’s planning and rights of way committee next Tuesday (March 2).

Back in 2018, Angus carried out a seven-day well test and attempted to return to the site in 2019, but the county council said its planning permission had expired.

The company wants to return to the well to pump out the remaining drilling fluids followed by an extended well test.

Should hydrocarbons be seen to be viable after testing, the borehole would be temporarily suspended while a new planning application was prepared seeking commercial production, and if reserves are not viable the site would be restored.

Balcombe Parish Council has opposed the new application and 805 letters of objections have been sent in.

But this time county council officers are recommending approval.

In their report they note that the proposed development would have ‘some adverse impacts’, but they consider these could be satisfactorily mitigated by imposing appropriate planning conditions.

Their report said: “On balance, in light of the above assessment and taking account of the changes to the proposed development, in particular the shorter duration of the operations proposed compared with the previous application, the additional information submitted by the applicant, and changes to national energy policy, the revised application is considered to accord with the policies in the development plan and, therefore, it is acceptable.”