Regulation

Balcombe judicial review decision – reaction

West Sussex County Council welcome today’s decision.

A spokesman said: “Our planning committee has to make decisions based on the merits of individual applications while adhering to national guidelines and policies.

“We maintain the neutrality of our committee when it seeks to balance the competing interests in such applications – it’s absolutely crucial to the process and the High Court has supported our work in doing just that.

“We were confident that we had been absolutely fair in our approach to a very complex decision and the court has reinforced that.”

Friends of the Earth

Brenda Pollack, Friends of the Earth South East Campaigner, said:

“This is a very disappointing ruling when you consider how let down the villagers of Balcombe feel by the planning system and the Council’s decision-making process.

“Residents have been dealt a poor hand in this case, as they suffered a huge amount of disruption last summer, with noise from the drilling and extra lorries in their village.

“The level of opposition in Balcombe and across the country shows that companies like Cuadrilla have no social license to operate. It also shows that the public do not have trust in the bodies that are meant to protect us and our environment.”

“Balcombe is a small village in West Sussex and the majority of residents said no to oil exploration on their doorstep. Nearly 900 objections were received with only nine supporting it.

“The regulatory system failings have included:

–        The Environment Agency did not require a groundwater permit for Cuadrilla’s drilling at Balcombe, even though there are streams running through the site, the headwaters of the River Ouse are close by, and a drinking water borehole is just over 2 km from the site.

–        The Environment Agency did not originally require Cuadrilla to obtain important permits for its activities at Balcombe until Friends of the Earth raised the need for such permits – Cuadrilla were then required to obtain Mining Waste and Radioactive Waste permits.

–        Cuadrilla appeared to breach planning conditions several times. The breaches included exceeding maximum noise levels, working beyond permitted hours and HGV traffic driving past the village school at drop-off and pick-up times. West Sussex Council admitted that it did not have the staff or equipment to undertake noise monitoring at the time.”

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