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Tories under attack over Sussex oil and gas drilling

27th June 2014

The debate over oil drilling in Balcombe has turned against local and national Conservative politicians this month.

Letters to the local paper, the Mid-Sussex Times, have criticised the Government, Conservative-led West Sussex County Council and the local Tory MP.

Gillian Pace wrote on 15th June criticising government support for fracking:

“David Cameron came to power pledging to lead the greenest government ever yet has recently placed a moratorium on further onshore wind turbine projects. It’s time to give people the choice through a referendum. If the people of this country vote to have it fracked then so be it. Until then, no government, national or local, has a mandate to allow fracking to proceed.”

On 21st June, Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, criticised government plans to change the trespass laws to allow oil and gas companies to drill without landowners’ permission. This, he said, “flies in the face of public opinion”.

“Rather than listen to people’s legitimate concerns over the environmental, health and economic risks of fracking, the government is steamrolling through legislation that will deny people any say in what happens to the ground beneath their homes.”

The next day, Juliet Harris, from Balcombe, addressed her letter to her local MP, Francis Maude:

“I think it is shocking the way the Conservative government have behaved in bulldozing through this policy to frack, when so much expert opinion says it makes no economic or ecological sense, and to jeopardise the rights of the British public to drill under their homes, is spectacularly undemocratic…..at least UKIP, who support fracking, will not proceed without social license.”

She also criticised her Conservative-controlled County Council for approving Cuadrilla’s planning application to flow test its well, despite a poll of Balcombe villagers.

“In Balcombe”, she said, “We had a democratic vote, via the electoral register and 60% of the village does NOT want Cuadrilla or any unconventional exploration in our village… and the Tory county council dismissed 1000 objections, 5000 people petition and among the objections, a 70 page objection from the village itself.”

Ending her letter she asked where was Mr Maude during what she described as “our rotten experiences” of last summer.

“Didn’t see you much around our devastated community? Our representative, our Member of Parliament? It would be laughable, if it wasn’t so depressing.”

Today, Rodney Jago, another Balcombe resident, added his letter to debate. He challenged Juliet Harris’s interpretation of the poll result

“In the Local Referendum she mentions, of the 1,507 eligible voters only just over one third (536) were sufficiently concerned to oppose the application.”

He added:

“Every small community cannot be given a veto over National Policy. If they were we would have no railways, no motorways, no airports, indeed precious little public infrastructure at all. In some communities we might still have the benefits of hanging & flogging and the stocks for agitators.”

But on one point, Mr Jago said he agreed with Juliet Harris:

“I too would like to have seen more of our local MP last summer. We needed leadership in support of our farmers against trespass and disruption, of us all against the blocking of highways, of legal business against closure at the whim of a mob and an authoritative response to irresponsible propaganda.”

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