Decision on National Park drilling application delayed by large number of comments; Highways objection

3rd July 2014

The large number of comments on Celtique Energies’s planning application to drill at Fernhurst in the South Downs National Park has delayed a decision until the autumn.

The company had asked the South Downs National Park Authority to consider the application at the July meeting of the planning committee, scheduled for Thursday next week (10th). But the agenda for the meeting, published yesterday, did not include the application.

The authority said today there was no confirmed date to consider the application but it would probably be in the autumn because there was no planning meeting in August.

Celtique Energie has applied to drill a vertical exploratory oil or gas well and install access roads and soil bounds at Nine Acre Copse, Venn Road, near Fernhurst. In February, the National Park Authority asked the company for more information and a revised Environmental Statement. The company submitted the material in April and removed plans for a horizontal well. In a statement at the time it said it hoped the application would be decided in July.

A spokesman for the National Park Authority said there had been a lot of comments on the application that had to be considered. The final number of individual public comments is not yet known because the authority is currently “de-duplicating” the responses because some people had submitted more than one identical response. However, the total was well over 2,000, she said.

Highways objection

Last week the Highways Authority of West Sussex County Council objected to the application. In its response, Dominic Smith said the application had “not satisfactorily demonstrated that safe and suitable access to the site can be achieved”.

He said Celtiqie Energie had failed to

  • Address problems raised in a safety audit
  • Show that it could create the required sight-lines at the entrance onto Vann Road
  • Show that large vehicles could turn right from the site into Vann Road.
  • Find ways to solve traffic congestion in the area
  • Provide an accurate picture of current traffic in the area and what could be expected if the development went ahead
  • Show that Vann Road could accommodate extra traffic, including vehicles drivelling in both directions

This objection by their Highways Authority could be significant. The planning committee that discussed Cuadrilla’s application to test its exploratory well at Balcombe spent much of its time on traffic volumes and movements.

The formal consultation period on the Fernhurst application has ended but public comments can be submitted to the National Park Authority up to the time of the planning meeting.


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