Opponents of exploratory oil drilling near three Sussex villagers are celebrating after Celtique Energie announced it would not fight refusals of planning permission.
In a surprise statement yesterday afternoon, the company said it was abandoning its appeal against the rejection of its application to drill between Wisborough Green and Kirdford in West Sussex. In the same statement, Celtique also announced it would not appeal against the decision by the South Downs National Park Authority to block its plans at Fernhurst.
The campaign group, Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green (KKWG), said on its website today: “We could hardly believe the press release we read on Celtique Energies website yesterday and had to pinch ourselves a few times to make sure it wasn’t a figment of our imagination!”
Celtique Energie’s statement said the delay to the public inquiry, due to be held in September, meant it would not have enough time to drill a well before its licence term expired in 2016.
KKWG said: “Whether the reason given is PR spin to save face or they finally realised that their arguments didn’t stack up, we don’t know. One things for sure, there are a lot of happy people in Kirdford and Wisborough Green.”
The group said it was waiting to hear from West Sussex County Council, which refused the application, for confirmation that the appeal had been withdrawn.
“We have a number of other elements needing clarification”, the group said, “including the not so small matter of all the donations recently received. We will get back to you as soon as possible – meantime enjoy your day and this fantastic news.”
Nick Herbert, Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs, told the West Sussex County Times, “This is great news for the communities who would have been affected by this drilling. The site was poorly chosen and would have meant lorries thundering down quiet county lanes and through villages.
“That is why I objected to this application on behalf of local communities. The South Downs is a highly protected landscape for good reason, and the Government has rightly now set a presumption against fracking in or adjacent to National Parks.
“The industry must choose locations more carefully if it is to win public support for fracking in future.”
Celtique Energie also announced it would lodge an appeal against the refusal of its application for drilling at Fernhurst. The deadline was Monday 16th March. The company said government statements on excluding fracking from protected areas put in doubt drilling operations in National Parks.
Marcus Adams, of Frack Free Fernhurst, told the Chichester Observer: “It reiterates what we have been saying all along that both these sites are completely unsuitable for a whole raft of reasons.”
“It is clear the government is still desperate to get the shale industry going in the country but I think the industry itself is waking up to the fact that they won’t get permission in areas as sensitive as Fernhurst.
“As our MP Andrew Tyrie said many months ago, Fernhurst, in the heart of the South Downs National Park, is not the place for an industrial experiment of this particular nature.”
Posts on Facebook page also welcomed the news about Fernhurst.
Frack Free Fernhurst said: “It was a real team effort and shows what a community can do when it comes together.”
Other post said: “The village owes FFF a huge debt of gratitude for this. Thank you.” And “Fantastic news for our villages.”
[Updated 13/3/15 to include comments from Nick Herbert and Marcus Adams]