Drilling company denies planning breach; council promises continuing monitoring

West Sussex County Council says it is continuing to monitor operations at Celtique Energie’s drilling site near Billingshurst after a report that a planning condition had been broken. The company denies there was a breach.

Celtique Energie has permission to drill an exploratory oil and gas borehole at Wood Barn Farm, Adversane Lane, Broadford Bridge. It is currently preparing the site, including work on ditches and an access road. A condition of the application is that no work is carried out on Sundays.

A West Sussex resident made a report to county council planners that people were working at the site on the morning of Sunday September 28th. We understand the resident informed the council that there was an open van and at least two people, one of them carrying a plank, inside the site near the access road.

An anti-fracking campaigner also raised this issue during a debate at the full meeting of West Sussex County Council on Friday (October 17th 2014). Phil Donoghue, of Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green, was speaking on behalf of about 3,600 people who signed a petition calling for West Sussex to be declared a frack-free zone. In his presentation to councillors, he said “The oil companies cannot be trusted. Celtique has already contravened your planning conditions at Billingshurst by working on a Sunday.”

A spokesperson for WSCC said: “We contacted the operator who has confirmed that there are security personnel on the site at all times, but no work has taken place outside of the permitted hours, and that they will ensure this is the case.”

The spokesperson said the planning team would continue to monitor the site’s operations, through the site operator and local contacts.

When asked how the site would be monitored, WSCC planning department conceded that its staff could not be present at all times to ensure conditions were complied with and said this would “not be an appropriate use of limited staff resources”. But it said officers would make announced and unannounced visits.

The planning department also said it was in “regular contact” with the operator and would “raise any local concerns about operators”. Any breaches would be resolved initially through negotiation with the developer or operator.

“If we are unable to resolve any unacceptable impacts through negotiation”, the department said, “we will only take appropriate enforcement action if this is in the public interest (and any action will be proportionate and reflect the severity of the breach of planning control).”

  • A public meeting “To Frack or Not?” is being held at Billingshurst Centre, Roman Way, Billingshurst, West Sussex RH14 9EW, on Tuesday October 28th at 7.30pm.

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