20th June 2014
West Sussex County Council and the drilling company, Cuadrilla, have until the beginning of July to respond to a legal challenge by Balcombe residents.
Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association (FFBRA) is seeking a judicial review of the decision by the county council to grant planning permission to Cuadrilla to test its exploratory oil well in the village and install a flare.
FFBRA issued its case, known as the grounds of claim, to the High Court on June 11th. The county council has 21 days from that date in which to issue a summary of its defence. FFBRA named Cuadrilla as an interested party and the company has the same time period in which to respond.
A judge in the High Court will then look at both sides to see if FFBRA’s case is arguable. If the judge thinks it is, he or she will give permission for the case to proceed. It will be heard in the Administrative Court in anything between four and 18 months.
The judicial review will not prevent Cuadrilla testing its well at Balcombe. However, if Cuadrilla prepared to start work FFBRA’s solicitors, Leigh Day, could appeal to the court for what is known as interim relief and this could stop the testing operation.
Solicitor Ugo Hayter, of Leigh Day, said: “There is no obligation on the court to grant interim relief. It depends on whether the court thinks Cuadrilla’s action would unfairly prejudice our claim and whether the case is arguable. Generally the courts want to make sure a case does not become an academic exercise.”