22nd July 2014
The drilling company whose plans for two oil exploration wells between Wisborough Green and Kirdford were refused this morning has described its application as “compliant, comprehensive and of high quality”.
In a statement issued this evening, Celtique Energie said West Sussex councilors had not followed the “spirit or letter of government policy” when they refused the application.
The company’s chief executive, Geoff Davies, said the plans would stand up to further scrutiny by the Planning Inspectorate or the Secretary of State in the event of an appeal. But Mr Davies did not confirm whether the company would appeal against the decision. The statement just said: “We are considering our further options and will make a decision in due course.”
West Sussex’s highways department had objected to the application because of concerns that site lorries would overload local roads and could not travel safely on the narrow carriageways. A report by council planners recommended the committee refuse the application.
Celtique Energie said it had addressed the planners’ concerns in a 70 page document submitted to the council late on Friday, less than two working days before the committee met. Two of its consultants asked councilors to defer a decision until planning officers had had a chance to read the document.
But the committee voted to make a decision today and rejected the application unanimously. Members also added a further reason to refuse the application, arguing that Celtique Energie had not demonstrated that the site was the best possible in the area.
Mr Davies said: “We understand that the WSCC officers advised the committee that the Highway Department had not had time to study our response but in the face of that advice the Planning Committee resolved that they had sufficient information to reject the application without need for further study of our traffic response. This is despite WSCC issuing a press release yesterday (21st July) stating that they would defer the planning decision until the revised traffic assessment had been studied.”
“WSCC members also added a last minute additional reason today for refusal stating that the site selection does not present the ‘best’ option within the PEDL licence area with sufficiently good access to a main highway. This runs contrary to a detailed Alternative Site Assessments document submitted as part of our application which outlined our approach to selecting this site, which was deemed to be acceptable by planning officers.”
Mr Davies said: “WSCC members have not followed the spirit or the letter of Government policy or good practice in dealing with this planning application. We believe this application was totally compliant, comprehensive and of high quality and would stand up to further scrutiny by the Planning Inspectorate or the Secretary of State in the event of an appeal.”
The statement added: “The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires local planning authorities to ‘approach decision-taking in a positive way’ (para 186), ‘look for solutions rather than problems’ and ‘work proactively with applicants’ (para 187).”