19th June 2014
Planning officers at West Sussex County Council are preparing for intense public interest in their advice on Celtique Energie’s application to explore for oil between Kirdford and Wisborough Green. They also expect there will be close scrutiny of their report, which will recommend a decision to the council’s planning committee.
Celtique Energie has applied to install and drill an oil exploration well at land south of Boxal Bridge. It also proposes to build access roads and a soil bund around a flaring pit. Tomorrow (Friday June 20th) is the final day to comment on the application. The council’s planning committee is due to vote on it on Tuesday July 22nd.
Council correspondence released under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, submitted by Katy Fletcher, suggests council officers are trying to make sure the application is complete and that their report to the committee stands up to challenge. The FOI response can be viewed by clicking here.
The released documents include an email from May 1st in which planning officer Jane Moseley pointed out that cross-sections of the site supplied by Celtique Energie contained mistakes.
She also requested additional site plans, writing: “Please also provide elevations or ‘context plans’ which show the site from each angle, as James [a planning officer] requested in his letter of December 2013. I still do not consider we have plans which show this.”
The recipient of the email is redacted but it appears to be Celtique Energie or one of its contractors. Miss Moseley wrote: “Apologies if this seems pedantic but it is important that these plans accurately reflect what is on site”.
On May 2nd, another planner, Dominic Smith, emailed Miss Moseley to raise the issue of lorry routes. This had been a large part of the discussions at April’s planning committee meeting, which approved Cuadrilla’s application to test its well and install a flare at Balcombe. The legality of that decision is being challenged by a group of Balcombe residents in the High Court.
Mr Smith said the preferred lorry route took vehicles through the centre of the village. An alternative route away from the village had been ruled out by highways officers and consultants. “While similar advice was offered at the Balcombe site”, Mr Smith said, “a number of the members [councillors] expressed a desire to route vehicles away from the local village.” He recommended Celtique Energie work up a proposal for the alternative route in time for the planning meeting.
On May 15th, Miss Moseley wrote, presumably to Celtique Energie (the recipient’s name is again redacted), recommending the application be considered by the July committee, rather than the one in June.
She wrote: “For the application to go to Committee on 24 June, my report needs to be finalised by 4 June. Given the above timescales this is appearing increasingly unrealistic, particularly given the scrutiny the application and my report will be subject to.”
Celtique Energie first submitted its application in September last year and a decision has been delayed several times.
The deadline of the first consultation period was extended from October to early December last year. On December 4th West Sussex County Council asked Celtique Energie for more information and put the application on hold until this was provided.
The second consultation on the extra information was extended from June 5th to June 20th. Comments can be submitted via West Sussex County Council’s website or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org