11th March 2014
Noise, lighting, traffic and the impact on the natural beauty of the High Weald are the key concerns of organisations responding to Cuadrilla’s application to flow test its oil exploration well at Balcombe.
As the consultation period comes to an end, InvestigatingBalcomeAndCuadrilla.com has been analysing the comments. This post looks at the reactions of statutory consultees, such as local authorities and government agencies. Later in the week, when the public consultation closes, we will look at the responses of members of the public.
Balcombe Parish Council will be objecting to the application and is expected to make its formal response on March 18th. Our report of the extra-ordinary council meeting has a summary of what it will contain. We’ve written a separate report on the response of Public Health England, which raised concerns about air and water pollution. We will report later on the response from the Frack Free Balcombe Residents’ Association.
Threat to natural beauty of the High Weald
Mid Sussex District Council emphasised the potential effects of the well testing on the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, particularly through site lighting, fencing, equipment and structures.
It called for a detailed Construction Management Plan, covering hours of work and number of HGV deliveries, to avoid school drop-off and pick up times and weekends. Mid Sussex also wanted a reassurance that, if the application were granted, West Sussex County Council would “rigorously apply and enforce conditions”, particularly on noise, air quality, odour and groundwater pollution.
Ardingly Parish Council objected to the application on the following grounds:
- Close proximity to Ardingly Reservoir
- Possible contamination of water and pollution to the wider environment
- Potential impact on wildlife
- Location in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
No assessment of the effect on protected species
Natural England made no comment on the application’s impact on protected landscapes and said it had not assessed the proposals for any impact on protected species. It recommended West Sussex County Council apply generic guidance on whether protected species were likely to be on the site. Should the application be approved, West Sussex County Council should seek to enhance the biodiversity of the site.
Restrict light spill
WSCC Ecologist had no objection on ecological grounds. He did, however, call for strict controls on lighting. There should be no light spill onto nearby vegetation of more than 1 lux. The ecologist called for a site lighting strategy, which should be assessed by a suitably qualified ecological consultant. There should also be an assessment of bat activity, that should be carried out between May and August, and within 12 months of the start of the operation.
Flare, traffic and evening noise
WSCC Noise Consultant Acoustic Associates Sussex Ltd said the noise resulting from the application was likely to comply with national planning guidance. However, the company asked for more information on the noise from the flare (which was not included in the application) and evening noise levels.
It said: “There is a stated potential in the assessment for the flare to generate a significant level of noise. It may also be the case that if the noise from the flare were to prove problematic in terms of noise received at the NSR [noise sensitive receptors – local houses] then it may not be possible to either enclose the flare or throttle back the flow quickly enough to avoid a noise nuisance being generated.”
The company said traffic noise should not be a problem, providing site traffic was confined to 22 car and three HGV movements a day. If the application were granted, there should be noise limits during operating hours and in the evenings and weekends.
Study of impact on landscape
High Weald AONB called for a landscape and visual impact assessment of the site’s structures and fencing. The AONB board also recommended a wider assessment of the application’s impact on endangered and sensitive wildlife. The comment said providing the installation was temporary it was unlikely to have additional long-term impact on the natural beauty of the area.
Keep intruders out
Sussex Police recommended the installation of secure perimeter fencing with gates and lighting. It also suggested a monitored intruder alarm system, linked to a CCTV system to provide a remote visual link to the site. Sussex Police said entrance and driveway gates should be inward opening and of a substantial framed construction with galvanized adjustable hinges and fixings. It must not be possible to lift gates off their hinges or remove them from adjoining fence posts. The police also recommended that gates must have padlocks or electric locks. The tops of fences should finish flush with their posts and where there is stepped ground there should be no gaps which allow people to get under the fence.
Restrict or reroute lorry movements
Balcombe CE School pointed out that 69 lorry movements were scheduled to happen over a 14-day period. Each one would pass the school and its outside education area. It also drew attention to the lack of a management plan for transporting waste or detailed procedures for a transport emergency. If the application were granted, the chair of governors, Jeff Thompson, recommended lorries should not pass the school when children and staff were there. This should be achieved by limiting when the lorries could drive past, or by altering the route to avoid the school.