Celtique Energie announced this afternoon it would not be appealing against a refusal of planning permission to drill an exploratory well at Fernhurst in the South Downs National Park.
And in a surprise announcement, the company also revealed it was pulling out of its appeal against the refusal by West Sussex County Council of permission for a well between Wisborough Green and Kirdford. The news was immediately welcomed by Friends of the Earth, which has campaigned against both wells.
In a statement Celtique Energie said changes in the Infrastructure Act restricting unconventional oil and gas development in National Parks meant the evaluation of shale was “no longer feasible”
The company said: “This is in conjunction with Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) reinforcing new planning guidance regarding oil and gas developments in National Parks in England, stipulating that applications should be refused in these areas other than in exceptional circumstances and where it is in the public interest. At present there is too much uncertainty over how this test will be applied in practice to justify investment in National Parks.
The company had until next Monday (March 16th) to decide whether to appeal against the Fernhurst refusal, made by the South Downs National Park Authority in September.
Celtique Energie said it had decided to abandon its appeal against the Wisborough Green-Kirdford refusal because of delays to the start date for the public enquiry. This had been scheduled for September this year. The delay had been blamed on a shortage of available inquiry inspectors.
The company had lodged its appeal on 15th October 2014. Local campaigners had been due to meet later this month their strategy for fighting the appeal.
Celtique Energie said: By the time the Inspector’s decision is received and the period for any third party legal challenge to that decision has expired, there will be insufficient time to drill a well at this location prior to the end of the licence term of PEDL 234 in June 2016
Brenda Pollack, of Friends of the Earth, welcomed the decision this evening.
“I am absolutely delighted. This is a tremendous victory for common sense and yet another blow to the Coalition’s short-sighted fracking plans. The withdrawal of their appeal at Wisborough Green is completely unexpected.”
“It is wonderful news for local people in those villages and beyond who do not want dirty drilling affecting their communities.”
” The South Downs National Park Authority and West Sussex Council were right to reject these schemes and we hope that other companies take note”