Balcombe lawyers say dismissed judicial review will lead to better decisions

Lawyers representing residents who sought to overturn Cuadrilla’s planning permission to test its exploratory oil well in Balcombe said the judicial review raised important issues.

Mur Justice Gilbart – in a written ruling yesterday – dismissed the claim that the decision by West Sussex County Council was unlawful. He ordered the Frack Free Balcombe Residents’ Association to pay £10,000 in costs.

Ugo Hayter, from the law firm Leigh Day, which acted for FFBRA, said although the residents were disappointed that the judicial review had been dismissed, they believed it had forced councillors to engage in the planning process. She added that the JR would “ensure more informed planning decisions in the future which will greatly benefit Sussex”.

Speaking after the judgment Ms Hayter said the judge had not dealt with FFBRA’s key arguments.

“This is disappointing. Over the important issue of whether or not the planning officer mislead the planning committee by instructing them that they ‘must assume’ that the EA and HSE had done their job, Judge Gilbart took it upon himself to substitute the word “should” for “must” and then rejected his own restatement of our argument.

“Likewise Judge Gilbart avoided dealing with our argument that the planning officer had mislead the councillors when she informed them that the letter from Public Health England requesting additional monitoring was covered by the EA Permit.”

Sue Taylor, Vice Chair of Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association said: “There are complex technical issues that are not being addressed that expose the residents of Balcombe to real health risks; and also present risks to the local water courses and public water supplies. We wanted to have the existing planning permission rescinded so that these issues can be fully investigated before any further work is done to the well. Judge Gilbert’s refusal to address our genuine concerns is a lost opportunity.”

“We do not believe the weak monitoring conditions in the EA Permit can protect our families. The EA Permit only requires a once a month test whereas common sense dictates that real time air pollution monitoring is required given the fact that the village lies above the height of the flare and in the direction of the prevailing wind. FFBRA will now investigate how to develop its own air monitoring system to supplement the inadequate regulatory requirements.”

Detailed report of the judge’s ruling

Reaction from West Sussex County Council

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