Sussex residents urged to object to UKOG’s oil drilling plans at Broadford Bridge

Pulborough meeting 170430 Jon O'Houston 1

Photo: Jon O’Houston

About 150 people heard calls last night to object to oil drilling, expected in the next few weeks, at a farm near Billingshurst in West Sussex.

A packed public meeting at nearby Pulborough was standing room only as residents were urged to contact their local MPs and councillors to try to block the work.

UK Oil and Gas (Investments) plc has planning permission for exploratory drilling at Wood Barn Farm, Broadford Bridge, and is currently applying for a variation of its environmental permit. The company has said it would drill the well in the second quarter of this year (April-June). Planning permission expires in September 2017.

The meeting had been organised by Keep Billingshurst Frack Free and was chaired by actor Sue Jameson, who lives in Sussex. UKOG did not attend but supplied literature to the event.

Pulborough meeting 170430 Jon O'Houston 2

From left, Dr Roger Smith, Sue Jameson, Nicola Peel and Emeritus Professor David Smythe. Photo: Jon O’Houston

Environmentalist Nicola Peel, who comes from Pulborough, urged people to write to their current MP, Nick Herbert, and their local representatives on West Sussex County, Horsham District and West Chiltington Parish councils.

She told the meeting:

“There could be four to eight wells per sq mile in this area. We are not just talking about one well, like Storrington. If we don’t stand up and say no we are all complicit in climate change.”

Ms Peel said every member of West Chiltington Parish Council had objected to the variation of the environmental permit.

“They said they felt the wool had been pulled over their eyes. A lot of information had not been given to them. When they were given the full story, they objected.”


Ms Peel also criticised mistakes in UKOG’s permit application. It had said people would be taken to Horsham Hospital in an emergency but the hospital had no accident and emergency department.

The application also said there were no designated habitat sites in the immediate vicinity of the site and no protected areas within 10km.

But another speaker, Dr Roger Smith, a trustee of the Sussex Branch of the CPRE, said the closest area of ancient woodland was 150m from the pad and there were at least were six Sites of Scientific Interest within 10km. He said:

“This is a most unfortunate mistake”.

Nicola Peel said:

“They [UKOG] are not dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. That does not give us confidence.”

Dr Jill Sutcliffe, of Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green, said the proposals for Broadford Bridge risked breaching planning permission and other regulations.

She told the meeting that West Sussex County Council had granted planning permission in February 2013 on the basis of an environmental statement which said the well would explore for gas in a sandstone reservoir. UKOG’s subsidiary, Kimmeridge Oil and Gas Limited, now said it would be exploring for oil in Kimmeridge limestone. Dr Sutcliffe urged the audience:

“Ask West Sussex County Council to reconsider. They said if anything was breached they would have to issue a stop notice on the site. But the environmental statement is now out of date. Write to West Sussex County Council. Tell them that this is wrong and you are at risk of breaching your own permission.”

Dr Smith said the permit application should be refused and there should be another planning application with a new consultation process.

Another speaker, Emeritus Professor David Smythe, questioned whether drilling for oil in the Weald was a conventional operation, as the companies claimed, and whether it was economically viable.

“This industry will fall apart as long as you object to it every step of the way. You will be doing them a favour in the long-run”.


UKOG refutes arguments opposing its Broadford Bridge plans. It distributed a letter and fact sheet to local homes before the meeting (see links below).

The company said it would not attend the meeting because it would not be “guaranteed a fair hearing”. But before the event two people working for the company delivered literature to the village hall, accompanied by two police officers.


UKOG’s full letter to residents

UKOG’s full leaflet 10 things you need to know about Broadford Bridge

David Smythe’s Ten questions to be asked about Broadford Bridge

Key facts and timeline about Broadford Bridge

Oil company accuses Sussex drilling opponents of “scaremongering” – “nonsense” says “shocked” campaign group (DrillOrDrop report)

5 replies »

  1. Ms Peel was not quite right re taking injured people to Horsham in an emergency. The permit application noted that, if the injury could be dealt with by Horsham, at their minor injuries unit, then they should take them to it. If an ambulance was required it took the to an appropriate hospital. I guess the permit could have noted where those hospitals were, but there are 4 A&E units within 20 miles, which is a lot compared to Dimlington, or Theddlethorpe, say. Plus and the decision as to which one the ambulance goes to is not for the company to decide.
    More detail would be in the Emergency Resonse Plan, as a Permit application only provides an overview of the response, not the detail.

  2. If this article summaries the meeting and it’s concerns over the development, then I am very assured UKOG has done everything correctly and there are no environmental concerns. Which hospital they go to is clearly not incorrect information and is something that wouldn’t be chosen by UKOG. Nothing to do with the environment. Varying which drilling target a company goes for is standard practice – the new target is in shallower rocks so would of been penetrated anyway.

    I also believe the statement of 4 – 8 wells per square mile is completely misleading as it will be 4-8 per well site (not dotted around like they were 40 years ago). Broadford Bridge is a great site and should be supported by locals. Fast, wide roads, out of the way, well screened and crucially not in a national park or area of outstanding natural beauty. These people would reject any application anywhere. Need to remember that these people all go on foreign holidays, drive 4×4’s and send their children to private schools 100 miles from home. The UK uses oil and should produce oil locally and the most environmentally friendly way possible – which is onshore and not fracking.

  3. Sure the residents would be happy for their children and grandchildren to get well paid jobs with these oil companies and allow them a brighter future and funds to get on the property ladder #justsaying

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