Celtique Energie has been ordered to pay thousands of pounds of costs to a campaign group and West Sussex County Council after withdrawing its appeal over plans for exploratory drilling.
The company was refused permission in July 2014 for a well near Boxal Bridge between Kirdford and Wisborough Green. It appealed in October 2014 and dates were agreed for a public inquiry. But in a surprise move five months later Celtique withdrew the appeal.
The council and the campaign group, Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green (KKWG), applied for costs incurred in preparing for the appeal.
This month, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government decided that Celtique Energie had behaved unreasonably and ordered it to pay the costs of the two parties in the appeal.
KKWG’s chair, Dr Jill Sutcliffe, said: “We are delighted and surprised that the Secretary of State has found in our favour. We will be pursuing this with Celtique Energie”.
She said the costs represented the time that had been wasted by members of the group, some of whom had been working on the appeal full-time. The total figure ran into thousands of pounds, she said.
West Sussex County Council said the level of costs it had incurred were currently being determined and would be sent to Celtique.
When the company withdrew the appeal, it said the arrangements for the public inquiry would not have left it enough time to drill a well at Boxal Bridge to meet its licence, which expires in June 2016.
But on 3rd August a letter from the Planning Inspectorate, on behalf of the Secretary of State, said Celtique Energie had known in December 2014 about the date and duration of the inquiry. The company had not raised concerns then and nothing had changed by March 2015 when it withdrew the appeal.
The Inspectorate said: “The withdrawal of the appeal did not result from a material change in circumstances”. It concluded: “the applicants’ decision to withdraw the appeal when they did was therefore unreasonable”.
As a result, the council and KKWG incurred “quantifiable wasted expense in the appeal proceedings. An award for costs will therefore be made”.
Both can now claim for costs incurred between December 2014, when arrangements for the inquiry were confirmed, and 11th March 2015, when Celtique withdrew the appeal.
- It has emerged that the Department of Energy and Climate Change agreed that Celtique Energie could satisfy the terms of the Wisborough Green licence by drilling in a neighbouring licence area at Broadford Bridge, near Billingshurst.
Updated 16.34 to include award of costs to West Sussex County Council as well as campaign group