Highways drop objection to Fernhurst drill plans

West Sussex Highways Authority has withdrawn its objection to Celtique Energie’s planning application to drill an exploratory oil well at Fernhurst.

The authority submitted a revised response to the application on August 26th after the company produced extra information, including a traffic management plan.

Dominic Smith, the strategic planner for the authority, said: “In light of the additional information provided by the applicant, the LHA [local highways authority] raises no objection to the proposed development, subject to conditions”.

The revised response could be very significant to the outcome of the application, which will be decided by the South Downs National Park Authority’s planning committee on Thursday September 11th. West Sussex County Council’s planning committee turned down another application by Celtique Energie for a site near Wisborough Green and Kirdford after the Highways Authority objected.

A report by the National Park’s planners is due out tomorrow and is expected to say whether they think the Fernhurst application should be approved or refused.

Frack Free Fernhurst, which opposes the application, said the new traffic management plan did not address the traffic issues. It urged its supporters to object to the South Downs National Park Authority.

“Our own planning consultant reviewed this new information and, unsurprisingly, found it full of errors and mis-representations”, the organisation said. 

“Despite the fact that the HGVs that Celtique plan to use cannot safely gain access to the site and have to cross into the opposing highway and will result in an unacceptable increase in the volume of traffic, WSCC Highways department decided to remove their original opposition. 

“WSCC seem to believe that all the problems can be solved by having a set of traffic lights at one of the pinch points along Vann Road. Either WSCC Highways department are incompetent or have bowed to corporate and political pressure.”

In June, Mr 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

In a report accompanying the revised response, Mr Smith said the applicant had addressed these issues and demonstrated that vehicles could get in and out of the site safely. His report also sets out conditions required of the development:

  • Vehicle access must be constructed before the development can start
  • Plans must be submitted and approved for measures to prevent surface water draining on to the highway
  • Required vehicle splays at the entrance must be created before the site can be occupied.
  • A traffic management plan must be approved before work can start

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