Last chance to comment on extension for works at Balcombe drilling site

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).

The deadline to comment on an extension for activities at a drilling site near Balcombe is later this week (Thursday November 30).

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.

Brenda Pollack, Friends of the Earth South East campaigner, said: “This is in the heart of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. People come here to enjoy the beautiful countryside not to see and hear dirty oil operations.

“We know that burning fossil fuels contributes to dangerous climate change. West Sussex council must refuse the plans. Allowing companies to drill underground for ever more difficult to extract oil and gas reserves is bonkers when it won’t help keep polluting emissions down.

“They haven’t given any good reasons why they didn’t carry out this work within the three years allowed by the council so we see no reason to allow things to drag on now.”

Balcombe resident Kathryn McWhirter added: “We love the places we live for their natural beauty, tranquility and the rural vibrancy of our communities.

“To us it is outrageous that oil companies want to force industrialisation upon us, air pollution from the flare and diesel equipment on site, a large number of HGVs rumbling through our village, past our primary school, church and homes, bearing diesel pollution, chemicals and dirty waste, and disturbing our peace.”

She argued that the sites at Balcombe and Broadford Bridge could lead to a large number of wells across the area.

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’.

To comment visit www.west sussex.gov.uk/planning using code WSCC/040/17/BA.

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