17th March 2014
Almost all the responses to the public consultation on Cuadrilla’s application to flow test its oil exploration well at Balcombe were objections.
An analysis* of the comments by InvestigatingBalcombeAndCuadrilla.com found
- Key concerns were water and air pollution, traffic, noise and the impact on wildlife
- More women responded than men
- Responses came from across the UK but about a quarter were from the Balcombe area
The consultation was conducted by West Sussex County Council between January 22nd and March 13th 2014. The full responses are on the web page for the Balcombe planning application under Public Comments.
Objections versus support
Of the 939 responses, 925 (99 per cent) were objections. There were 13 comments of support and 1 comment classified by West Sussex County Council as “concern raised”.
Top 20 issues raised in objections
The main reasons given for support were:
- Financial benefit to the community
- Provide jobs
- National need to reduce oil and gas imports
- Unobtrusive and well-hidden site
- No evidence that the activity would adversely affect Balcombe or its environment
One supporter wrote: “A refusal will be regarded as a victory for self-appointed protest groups who should not be allowed to influence planning decisions”.
More objections from women than men
There were more objections from women than men.
Objections from women 56%
Objections from men 35%
Joint objections (men and women) 2%
No information about gender 7%
Nine of the responses in support of the application were from men, two from women and two were joint responses
Large Balcombe response
A total of 767 of the responses (objections and supports) gave a postcode. Of these almost half (46%) were from the RH postcode area, which covers parts of Mid Sussex, Chichester, Horsham, Wealden and Lewes districts, as well as parts of Surrey.
A total of 207 (27%) were from the RH17 6 postcode area, which covers Balcombe and surrounding villages. 15% of responses were from Brighton and Hove and 4% from Lewes. Just 2% of responses were from London.
InvestigatingBalcombeAndCuadrilla.com analysed all 939 responses on the Public Comments section of the web page for Cuadrilla’s application WSCC/005/14/BA: These included comments which were sent by email, post (letters and postcards) and West Sussex County Council’s online form.
We recorded the following details (where possible) for all the responses:
- Name of respondent
- Objector , supporter or other
- Key issues mentioned in the response
For some comments, we recorded the exact wording where we felt it expressed clearly an important issue.
Of the 925 objections, 67 responses (7 per cent) made no substantive comment or simply asked for their objection to be noted.
For the remaining 858 objections which did raise specific issues, we allocated the issues to 39 different categories. We then counted the objections which mentioned each of these issues and expressed the total as a percentage of 858.
We found that 47 people made more than one response. Of these people, one was a supporter of the application. The rest were from people who objected. Most people who made more than one response commented twice, although three people (two objectors and the supporter) made more than two responses.
There were a total of 100 responses from people who responded more than once. The responses were not necessarily duplicates. Some, for example, expressed different issues, or expressed the same issues in different ways. For this reason, we included all the responses in the analysis.
There was evidence of pre-prepared responses. Some were submitted unchanged. Others were amended or added to. All these responses were included in the analysis.
There was evidence that some people who responded were well aware of the “material issues” that the County Council would take into account in considering the application. However, other people who responded raised issues that would not be considered by the council.