The MP for two West Sussex villages where Celtique Energie wants to drill for oil and gas said he hoped the company would lose its appeal against a refusal of planning permission. He also criticised Celtique for failing to reply to his letters.
Nick Herbert, Conservative MP for Arundel and the South Downs, told a meeting about fracking in Petworth today that the choice of site between Wisborough Green and Kirdford was “a crazy place for the industry to begin what would inevitably be a controversial process”.
He described Wisborough Green as a “quintessentially English village”. If successful, the application would have meant “there would be lorries thundering through it”, he said.
“I hope we will win on appeal and see off that process”.
Announcing the appeal yesterday, Celtique Energie described the refusal of its application by West Sussex County Council as “fundamentally unsound”. The company’s Chief Executive, Geoff Davies, said: “From our detailed studies we believe that this is an optimal location to undertake exploratory drilling to quantify the amount of untapped oil or gas resources present in this part of the Weald Basin, which we think has the potential to be nationally significant.”
But Mr Herbert, who does not oppose fracking in principle, criticised the company’s choice of site. “If this process had started off in an area that was less controversial, less sensitive, less potentially environmentally sensitive, it could have, potentially, from a government and industry point of view, built a lot of confidence about how to go about this.
“What they [Celtique Energie] did was unite those who, for perfectly proper ideological reasons, had real concerns about fracking as an activity anyway with what you might call middle England, who were concerned particularly about traffic movements.”
Mr Herbert also criticised Celtique Energie for the way it responded to him. “They would not even answer my letters when I was asking them about fracking. This company would not answer the letters that I wrote to them. I was just asking them information. They would not answer the questions. It is not surprising that the planning committee chucked out their application.”
We put this last point to Celtique Energie and will publish the company’s response.